Amsterdam: Summary VluchtMarkt Court Case

In the court case of the State (Openbaar Ministerie) against the VluchtMarkt, lawyer Uppal argued that although since 2010 squatting is a crime, the decision of evictions must be evaluated as proportionate to the interests of the squatters and the ones of the owners. Apart from a few technical exceptions, so far no judge has ruled in favour of the interests of the squatters.

Uppal argued that all people in the houses of Ten Katestraat 61 and 63 are ‘uitgeprocedeerde asielzoekers’: they are unable to stay here, because they asylum request got rejected, and cannot be deported to their country. As such they are not allowed to access basic rights, to get housing or work. Their only alternative to squatting is living on the streets or in detention centers, so that it would be disproportionate to evict them.

The Openbaar Ministerie, lawyer Mrs Graafeiland, claimed that the owner, the social housing cooperation Rochdale, wants to renovate, to sell the houses, or rent them out in the free-market. The fact that the squatters are ‘uitgeprocedeerde asielzoekers’ is not relevant, because it is in the interest of the state to prevent unlawful squatting.

However Rochdale has not done anything in five years to renovate the buildings. They had applied for demolition permits in 2009, and removed the asbestos in 2010, but since then nothing has been done to make the places livable. As they have claimed in a press released after the squat action, the financial crises stopped their plans, and they did not have money to work on the buildings.
Only 4 days after the house has been squatted Rochdale made a renovation plan, which concerns the roof and the outside of the building. This is mainly a mantainance work, that does not involve a structural renovation of the buildings to make them livable. It implies that after these renovations the buildings will keep on standing empty. Moreover these kind of works can be carried on with people living inside. So the interest of the owner to evict is not in proportion to the interest of the people who need a house.

The judge asked Rochdale if it was possible to do the renovation of the outside with the people living inside, but Rochdale argued that the buildings as a whole need to be empty to be able to renovate. Confronted with the weakness of these renovation plans, the lawyer of Rochdale replied that the owner has the right to access their properties, although they do not want to do anything with it.

The judge then asked to the ‘We are here’ group if they minded to go live in a detention centre. They replied that no one wants to go to a detention centre, and that they do not have any other choice then to squat houses. They also asked for justice and human treatment.

Verdict will be in 14 days, on July the 3rd.