Rabat – Dutch-Moroccan Ouisam Karim has been stuck in the Spanish enclave of Melilla for over a month. While Karim was waiting for the Melilla-Malaga ferry after spending his vacation in Morocco, Spanish authorities confiscated his passport believing it to be a forgery.
Though of Moroccan origin, Karim was born in the Netherlands, in the city of Helmond near Eindhoven.
Karim’s family approached the Dutch newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad, who reported the case over the weekend.
Karim was waiting in line with his ticket for the ferry on September 3 ready to go home again when police inspected his passport
Upon inspecting Karim’s Dutch passport, the Spanish authorities grew skeptical and confiscated his passport. The police also took Karim into custody.
Undocumented migrants attempting to cross to the border at Melilla, are known for using fake passports regularly.
“I was beaten and intimidated by police officers. I was not allowed to call anybody, I could not reach out to a lawyer and nobody spoke English,” Karim told Eindhovens Dagblad.
In an attempt to alleviate the situation, Karim signed a paper he did not understand, but thought would ensure his release. Instead, he was kept in jail for two days. Police finally released Karim but without his passport or credit card.
“I have asked the Dutch embassy for help several times, but they cut off the connection at every turn,” as Karim explained to NRC-Handelsblad.
Alone in Melilla without access to his bank account or identity documents, Karim was robbed and was forced to sleep on park benches.
Dutch politician takes action
Outraged by the situation and lack of progress, Karim’s family approached the media and raised alarm among politicians. Social-democratic member of the European Parliament Kati Piri took it upon herself to bring this pressing matter to her colleagues at the Hague who presented the case to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“This situation is bizarre. Minister Grapperhaus [Minister of Justice. ed] flies all the way to Thailand to secure the release of a convicted owner of a coffee shop, but leaves this man in Melilla to himself? This is European soil for pity’s sake,” Piri told NRC-Handelsblad.
Hoe kan het gebeuren dat je als 24-jarige Nederlandse staatsburger vier weken (!) op straat moet zwerven in #Melilla en @minbuza geen slaapplek, geen paspoort, geen terugreis voor je regelt? https://t.co/aZQ3Y8tCSV
— Kati Piri (@KatiPiri) October 5, 2019
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to NRC Handelsblad by stating: “We are in close contact with the Spanish authorities to provide them with the proper documents.”
There was, however, no comment on the ongoing delays keeping Karim in Melilla; “The embassy is doing everything it can.”
In a further bid to help Karim, Piri contacted the mayor of Arnhem in the Netherlands, Ahmed Marchouch. Marchouch, in turn, used his contacts in Melilla to organize safe accommodation for Karim.
“I know the complex situation in that particular region quite well, since I was born in a village close by,” Marcouch told NRC Handelsblad. “Acquaintances of mine have taken him under their wing (…) and Karim’s father provided me with a copy of his passport that was verified by an employment agency. Nothing indicates to anything suspicious.”
Marchouch concluded by stating, “It is exceedingly worrisome this matter takes so long.” Karim’s family plans to travel to Melilla as soon as possible.