The Refugee Jackpot

The Refugee Jackpot is a project about 'invited refugees' in the Netherlands by Eefje and photographer Karijn Kakebeeke in cooperation with FOTODOK. The Refugee Jackpot consists of a book, exhibition in Gemak, The Hague, a travelling outdoor exhibition and an educational program. 


From a refugee camp to a working-class neighbourhood in Kollum, Friesland. Hamida from Somalia exchanged her mud hut for a three-storey flat and can now send her children to school and learn how to read and write herself for the first time. But she has also been subject to racism and incomprehension.

The Aliens Legislation in European countries is becoming stricter;integration issues determine the political agenda and the battle for the voter.‘Happiness Seekers’ are stopped at the gate. Yet the ‘real’ refugee is still entitled to a stay in Europe. Indeed, refugees are even invited. TheNetherlands plays a leading role in this respect and has since 1984participated in the resettlement policy of the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Refugees organization makes proposals; the Netherlands decide who they will allow in the country, some five hundred persons every year.

The purpose of resettlement, as defined by the UNHCR, is threefold. It provides international protection to refugees, contributes to a sustainable solution to the refugee problem and expresses solidarity between countries.

Four times a year, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND)organizes selection missions to places where refugees are given shelter. These are followed, a few months later, by the Cultural Orientation Trainingof the Central Reception Organisation for Asylum Seekers (COA) which prepares the resettled refugees for what they can expect in their host country.A few weeks later, they come to live in a refugee centre (azc) in Amersfoortand are prepared for the Dutch society. They are shown how an ATM works, learn about traffic and are taught about our customs.

Roughly five months later they are ‘relocated’ (in groups) to various Dutch municipalities. This puts an end to the role of the COA and the 'preferential' status of these refugees. They now have the same obligations as any othernewcomer.

That is a beautiful ideal, but how attainable is it in practice? In what way does the Netherlands take care of these people? And most importantly, what is it like to begin anew here?

During a year and a half (2009-2010) photographer Karijn Kakebeeke and journalist Eefje Blankevoort followed the selection and integration process of two groups of resettled refugees. From the moment of the selection abroad to when they have actually been living in their new home community for several months and the first novelty has worn off. One group comes from Kakuma, a refugee camp in northern Kenya, the other is a group of Iraqis from Syria.

For many refugees, ‘being invited’ or being resettled in another country islike winning the jackpot. They get a chance to build a new life, leave their lifeas refugees behind them. But starting a new life in a foreign country is adifficult process of trial and error, disappointments and adjusted expectations.