"My father endangered his family to save Dutch soldiers; now we ask the Netherlands for protection"
It is impossible to understand Bashar Haydar (As Samawah, 1988) without the help of an Arabic translator. The problem is not only that he does not speak English or Finnish, but he also does not know how to read and write.
It is hard to believe that today someone who is so young is illiterate. But the fact that he barely went to school for a year could explain why he ended up in Finland.
Bashar left his country four years ago obsessed with the idea of reaching the Netherlands, whose army -he claims- promised protection to his father on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, in gratitude for the Dutch lives he saved.
In order to understand Bashar's story we have to go back to the year 2004, when Dutch forces established a base in the Iraqi province of Al Muthanna. At that time, his father, who ran a small appliance store in the city of As Samawah, accidentally learned about a conspiracy to attack foreign soldiers by throwing them a grenade while they were standing in a bridge.
Bashar says his father could not prevent this first attack, which killed one of the soldiers and left another without one leg. But his testimony was later crucial for the Dutch to imprison the perpetrators, who were besieged in a local coffee shop and arrested.
Promises at the headquarters
After that episode, his father was taken into the Dutch base, where the military command offered him to collaborate with them in exchange for protection. "You must take in consideration that I have a family -he told them- and if I do this I need them to be protected as well". The army officers -insists Bashar- agreed to it.
A few months later, Bashar's father also managed to gather information about an imminent ambush to a large group of soldiers prepared by another terrorist group. According to Bashar's testimony, his father warned the Dutch forces in time and with his collaboration -he even was infiltrated among the attackers- the operation could be dismantled and nobody was injured.
"They took my father again to the headquarters, where the military bosses thanked him in the name of Her Majesty the Queen Beatrix and even offered him some money in return for his services". He refused the payment; "I just hope you can offer me protection", he said.
Some time after that, the terrorist militia started to suspect that he was collaborating with the foreign army, so the Dutch soldiers advised him to hide. They told him that the Dutch unit would leave Irak soon and Bashar's family would be also taken to Holland. They just had to hide and wait.
"We all had to flee from our home, the house and my father's business were abandoned". Bashar went with his father to Karbala and the rest of the family (mother, two little sisters and three brothers) found a place to hide in Nayaf, where they have been until today.
Then the day came when the Dutch unit left his home city. "Some close friends told us later that actually soldiers came to our old house looking for my father, but it was impossible to communicate with them and they just left". Since then (2005), Bashar's family members are still hidden.
Looking for Captain Anton
In September 2015, like many other asylum seekers, Bashar left Iraq with a mission: reach the Netherlands and let the Dutch authorities to know they are still alive and waiting for the protection that they were once promised. "In the Netherlands you must find Captain Anton and Captain G (sic), they know who we are", his father told him.
After crossing Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, he arrived in Germany. "As I cannot read and I do not speak English, I joined a group of asylum seekers who promised to help me to get to the Netherlands".
The group gathered their money and bought travel tickets, but the outcome was that instead of going to the Netherlands, they ended up in Northern Sweden. "There, I met another Iraqi guy who told me I should come to Finland because I would get some help here. I entered Finland by bus in October 2015". "Finland was not my planned destination", he insists.
At the Dutch Embassy
Once in Finland, Bashar spent around three months in a reception center in Espoo (near Helsinki), where he met a Kurdish translator who arranged him an appointment at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Helsinki. "I told them the story of my father and the Dutch forces, I gave them some documents and they told me to go and return after I meet with the Finnish Immigration Service".
"I also explained I cannot read or write, that I am here in Finland by mistake and I should have a case in the Netherlands", he says.
After that, Bashar had his asylum interview with Migri. "They heard my story and they said that even assuming that the story was true, it was my father's and not mine. I said the whole family is in danger due to my father's collaboration with the Dutch army, but still the only thing they offered me was voluntary return to Iraq". He did not take that offer and he filed an asylum request that was later rejected by the Finnish authorities.
Bashar does not resign to go back to Iraq to continue hiding indefinitely. He has contacted a Finnish legal office of experts in Immigration Law to handle his case. With professional assistance, he intends to submit a second asylum application on the same grounds. "My father endangered the lives of his family members to save the lives of Dutch soldiers. I can't say they owe us anything, but now we are asking them for safety".
"Motivations for asylum are strong", lawyer says
But if his case has been already rejected once. Why should be successful now?
His lawyer, Jukka Autio, explained that there exist some circumstances in Bashar's case that probably have not been taken into account but may be decisive. "First of all, he is illiterate and cannot read and write. Therefore, it has been very difficult for him to explain his case and to understand what has been written on the basis of what he said".
Besides that, the lawyer thinks that "on the core of the case, according to our interpretation, the issue that the Netherlands granted asylum to his family has not been taken into consideration yet in the Finnish asylum process". "This means the case has not been handled in Finland from the point of view that there is already a factual situation of asylum granted by the Netherlands at the Army headquarters".
Autio explained that his office has contacted the Dutch authorities in an attempt to get some official documentation. "But It has proven to be very difficult, because a case involving military operations abroad is a classified matter in the Netherlands".
"If this proves to be impossible, then the issue should be approached through the Finnish authorities, so they should try to get the evidences from the Netherlands". "After reviewing this evidence, should arise the conclusion that motivations for asylum are very strong", the lawyer concluded.