City Rights Amsterdam

Dear all, I am Ann, am rather new to the Forum. I live in Amsterdam, I work with refugees and (undocumented) migrants here.

I work with a group of undocumented migrants who have very little protection in Amsterdam. The city offers them a place to sleep at night -Bed Bath Bread- but they have to leave during the day, they don’t receive any other support. At this moment the location is too small, so often people have to find a space in homeless shelters.

Amsterdam is a rich city, full of resources, but this group is systematically excluded from them. Lobbying hasn’t helped, which is why we want to set up City Rights: an initiative to unlock the resources in the city for all citizens. Citizens should have access to shelter and showers, to an occupation.

We are reaching out to other initiatives, to find examples which have worked, which we can put in practice here. Please don’t be shy, am looking forward to hear from you.

All my best,


Where do they usually go when they have to leave? To the street to panhandle for money?

Hi John,

They go to the streets, and to an organisation called Wereldhuis -World House- which is setting up the City Rights initiative.

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Thanks. Is it assumed by the public that this is the government’s responsibility?


Welcome, @anncassano! Glad to have you here. I am based at Edgeryders HQ in Brussels, so we are practically neighbors.

Can I ask @alex_levene to step up here? Not only for his considerable experience, but also to point Ann to other people here who face similar issues. @yara_al_adib (in Antwerp) has both experience and design skills here, and may have something to contribute.

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Hi @alberto,

Thanks for the welcome. I grew up in Belgium - am half-Italian- so I am in Belgium regularly. Would you mind having coffee when I’m around. I would be happy to meet with @yara_al_adib, too.

All my best,


Dear John,

Well, straight to the heart of the matter :slight_smile: Undocumented people are asylum-seekers who have been declined asylum or migrants who outstaid their visa. Formally they have no right to be on EU-soil. But they cannot always return to their country of origin because of all kind of reasons. Eg China does not accept the return of Chinese citizens who have applied for asylum elsewhere. Hence people are stuck.
THey don’t exist administratively, so on paper, on policy -level they aren’t dealt with. But of course they exist, they are here, in the city. So usually it’s cities and mayors who deal with the issue, because they know if they don’t, that people will be homeless, and that will cause unrest.
So cities in the Netherlands formulate their own policies on how the deal with these people. Amsterdam is quite a left-leaning city, but they offer very little support. It’s just enough for people to survive, but not to be able to live. Other Dutch cities offer more support. There is also the argument of pull-factors: cities are afraid that if they offer more, more undocumented people will move there.
The public, well, left-leaning people like me feel the city should do more, right-leaning people think that this group of people shouldn’t be here, hence they don’t have a right to anything.

Yara = wonderful person. Highest recommendation. Same with Alex.

But it sounds a lot like homeless problems in California where I live in terms of how governments handle it. The cities deal with it. Of course many here are not refugees from other countries, but they do come from other parts of the US and it is left to the local city to deal with it. It sucks to be homeless in the USA, but at least in California they don’t freeze. In Santa Monica the city provides lockers, showers and wash machines, but then they all go sleep wherever and spend their days on the street. In Berkeley, Oakland and SF they live in pretty big tent cities under freeway underpasses. Rich California cities have not made much progress at all with the problem and it has been decades now…

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Of course, Ann. You are welcome to visit us at The Reef. You can easily contact me through the platform.

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Thanks. I was in LA and San Francisco, and was rather shocked by how many homeless people there were in both cities.

Like school shootings, the USA seems to want to just not deal with it. America: freedom to succeed, freedom to fail.

Hi Alberto, I will be in Brussels this weekend for the Fearless Cities conference. Will any of you be there? If not, I would love to have coffee with you or somebody of the Edgeryders. ALl my best, ANn