Young refugees feel welcome in Diever: ‘I am happy here’

Reactions to their arrival were mixed. Since the end of April last year, unaccompanied minor refugees have been accommodated in the former Berkenheuvel hotel in Diever. Now, nine months later, the young asylum seekers have found their way and feel welcome.

A day in the life of Milikyas (15) from Eritrea and Yousef (15) from Syria.

It is dark around the reception location on Bosweg. The street name says it all, the former hotel is surrounded by trees, just outside the village on the edge of the Drents-Friese Wold. There is a light on in a shack in the parking lot. ‘Reception’ is above the door. A security guard keeps an eye on everything here day and night.

There is also movement in the office space a little further away. COA employees make coffee and tea. The supervisors walk to the kitchen with filled thermos flasks. A common room in the old restaurant area with tiles on the floor, a suspended ceiling and worktops, hobs and washing up sinks along the walls.

Tables and chairs are pushed together. The boys trickle in. “Good morning! Did you sleep well?” a supervisor asks Milikyas. He answers affirmatively, grabs a cup of coffee and joins us. His name is checked off a list.

Every morning the supervisors check whether everyone is there. The boys can register for homework help and training time in the gym. “I want to go to the gym at 4 p.m.,” Milikyas says. It has been part of his daily routine since he moved to Diever. Just like going to school. He receives lessons four days a week in a special class at the Stad en Esch comprehensive school.

Yousef puts two frozen brown sandwiches in the microwave. He pulls a chair in front of the electric fireplace that should make the kitchen area a little more cozy, and waits. “Pling!” His breakfast is ready. He walks away with the bread on a plate. Through the long, narrow hallway with doors on either side, to his room, which he shares with a friend.

“A very good boy. Smart.” The room has two beds, a chair, a cupboard and a table. Adjacent is a small bathroom. All the boys share a room together. “My room is always clean,” says Yousef. “Just ask the COA. Every two days we clean with wipes and the vacuum cleaner. Tidy is very important. If the room is not clean, my body is not clean either.”

Story continues after the photos: