MAASTRICHT. Maastricht intends to continue the Shelter City programme. This was decided by the city council after a trial period of two years. This initiative by Justice and Peace Netherlands enables foreign human rights defenders to recover for a period of three months, to work and study in a Dutch city. At the moment, eight cities are participating.
“The presence of such an international guest is an opportunity for Maastricht to make the theme of human rights and the situation in various countries in the world real and a topic for discussion,” writes the Municipal Executive in a memo to the city council.
The Faculty of Law will take over the role from University College Maastricht, which has already taken care of a guest four times. According to Fons Coomans, Professor appointed to the UNESCO endowed chair of Human Rights and Peace, the UCM felt it was certainly a success, but it was also a considerable burden especially for supporting staff.
At the end of 2016, Naythan from Kenya (whose surname will be withheld for privacy reasons) received workspace at University College. He is an activist who has worked on various human rights issues in his country (police violence and extrajudicial executions) for fifteen years. During his stay in Maastricht, he travelled around Germany, Belgium and other parts of the Netherlands, participating in meetings, talks and presentations with international NGOs and local organisations. In a former Observant edition, he describes his time in Europe as “productive and insightful”.
One year before, in 2015, Guleid from Somaliland was given refuge. Guleid is founder of the Somali Human Rights Centre, one of Somaliland’s few independent human rights monitoring organizations.
Yesterday a new guest, a female activist (Judith) from Nigeria, set foot on Dutch soil.