I am not a criminal, I am an artist | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

23 February, Saturday


I am not a criminal, I am an artist

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On January 10, 2019, hip-hop dancers Hamza, 20, Bourich Omar and Ahmed, 21, arrive at passport control at the Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands. In their hands, they have their Schengen* visas (3 months, multiple entries), which were delivered to them by the Dutch consulate in Casablanca on December 28, 2018.

The passport control agent asks them to state the purpose of their trip, their place of residence during their stay in the Netherlands and the amount of money they have on them. The three dancers are there to participate in an international hip-hop Battle that will be held in the city on January 12. Their return flights have been paid for and are scheduled for January 17 (Hamza and Omar) and 22 (Ahmed). In Eindhoven, their Dutch dancer friends and hosts are expecting them. Between the three of them, they have about 300 euros in their pockets. Hamza and Omar have already been to Europe (France, Netherlands), invited by Battle and hip-hop festival organizers. They are known on the Moroccan scene and are part of The Lions Crew Collective, which was praised by the New York Times in May 2018. As for Ahmed, it’s his first time in Europe.

The passport control agent doesn’t want to hear any of it. He makes them wait for several hours in an office, where they are interrogated several times by other agents. They are searched and then transferred to a police station outside the airport, where they undergo another interrogation: “are you suicidal?” “are you sexually active?”. These are some of the questions that they are asked, separately, each locked in a different office. Terrified, they tell the agents again and again that they have their visas, to no avail. They sign documents in Dutch that they don’t understand: “We were scared. When we signed, we thought we would be released.”

“I am not a criminal, I am an artist,” Hamza repeats, in vain.

The agents inform the three dancers that they are not allowed into the Netherlands for “insufficient means of subsistence” and insufficient justification for the purpose of their stay.

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