Stateless in Europe: A Boy's Fight for the Right to Stay

Illustration by  Eddie Stok

Illustration by Eddie Stok


“THIS IS MY COUNTRY,” nine-year old Nemr Salim says. He leaves no doubt, as he accompanies every single tweet with a Dutch national flag. This stateless boy, born in the Netherlands, has become a symbol of the “kinderpardon,” a policy regarding the children of refugees who have been living in the Netherlands for at least five years without a residence permit. He was also one of the main characters in Tim Hofman’s [read our profile of Tim Hofman here] recent documentary about the children who could be or are being deported to the countries their parents came from. Places they themselves have never known, and where they could possible die. In Nemr’s case, that country is Iraq.

If Nemr is a nine-year-old superhero, then he’s open about the source of his powers: ‘The more people follow me, the stronger I become.’


Nemr, who has passed through eight different refugee centers so far, decided to take matters into his own hands after the release of the documentary by creating a Twitter account in November 2018. The account was blocked, because he had listed his real birthdate—Nemr is technically too young to be on Twitter—so he bent the rules by registering with a fake age. In the past few months, he has met with politicians and has lobbied for better arrangements for himself and the other children of refugees. Nemr sported red Marvel pyjamas in a recent video post he made to thank his supporters. If he’s a nine-year-old superhero, then he’s open about the source of his powers. “The more people follow me, the stronger I become,” he said.

And strong he became: municipalities from all over the Netherlands formed a coalition supporting Nemr. In December, Nemr and Hofman pushed a cart filled with 250,000 signatures to the Dutch parliament. His dedication and determination undoubtedly helped to push politicians to reconsider the situation of 700 children. On the first of April he received the decision about his case: he can stay in the Netherlands.

Fortunately, it was not an April Fools’ joke.   


This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue

This Is Not An Elections Issue
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