Inside the Dutch prisons that migrants are calling home
The Netherlands has come up with a creative and controversial solution to the influx of migrants
The Netherlands is welcoming refugees with a novel housing arrangement: prison.
After a record-breaking 59,100 migrants from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa sought safety and asylum in the small European country in 2015, the Dutch government was forced to turn to its empty correctional facilities, a product of the country's declining crime rates, for temporary housing. But as the asylum process grows increasingly lengthy, these dozen or so former prisons seem more and more like permanent homes.
May 7, 2016: Afghan refugee Shazia Lutfi, 19, peeks around the door of her room at the former prison of De Koepel in Haarlem, Netherlands. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Associated Press photographer Muhammed Muheisen recently traveled to these former prisons to capture the daily lives of the refugees who are making the most of it. Inside, one to two people live in each sparsely decorated room. Residents can come and go as they please, but privacy is hard to come by and couples have to make do with bunkbeds. While some facilities have gyms and outdoor space, the air on the inside is stale, the light is limited, and no amount of paint and decoration can change the fact that the buildings were built for criminals.
Beyond the heavy doors and the barred windows are the quotidian signatures of daily life — laundry hangs over railings, kids run down narrow corridors, and a pickup game of soccer comes together in a brightly painted common area. "I don't feel that it is a prison," one teen told Muheisen. "What matters is that we are safe here." Below a look at the second life of Dutch prisons.
April 8, 2016: A migrant plays with a girl at the former prison of Westlingen in Heerhugowaard. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
April 20, 2016: Iraqi refugee Fatima Hussein, 65, prays inside her room at De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
May 1, 2016: Afghan refugee Siratullah Hayatullah, 23, does his laundry in De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
May 2, 2016: A Dutch volunteer teaches an Afghan refugee how to ride a bicycle at a yard at De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
April 6, 2016: Afghan refugee Hamed Karmi, 27, plays keyboard next to his wife Farishta Morahami, 25, inside their room at De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
May 10, 2016: Refugees and migrants play soccer at De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
April 29, 2016: Syrian refugee Alaa Mohammed, 35, watches TV in his room at De Koepel. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
April 10, 2016: An Afghan refugee holding a child looks out a window in Westlingen. | (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)