Osman didn’t want to be a child soldier, after 30 years he is still illegal

Osman NgoNgo (37) from Breda fled with his parents from Angola to the Netherlands thirty years ago because they did not want him to become a child soldier. Since then he has lived in the Netherlands, but his problems are still not over. He resides here illegally and as a result can’t officially work, buy a house or get a driver’s license and not even go on holiday. A cry for help.

In a friend’s tattoo parlor, Osman goes all out with his dancing skills. Dancing is his lifeline (see the video accompanying this story).

“I’ve been looking for something to feel less empty,” Osman says of his passion, “because sometimes I feel more dead than alive because I actually have to get out of the country. What everyone here takes for granted, I have not. I’m very stressed.”

Osman was born in 1985 in the middle of a civil war, but by fleeing, he did not end up in the war or a diamond mine as a child. He ended up in Breda with his parents, brothers and sisters. There he went to school, made friends, learned the language and also got a residence permit.

“My parents raised me with Jesus and good morals,” he says, “but I’m still off the rails.”

“It was only later that it dawned on me that I was a war child.”

What he experienced as a child in Angola, partly determined his future in the Netherlands. In 2005 and 2006 he regularly came into contact with the law and was also imprisoned for a while. As a result, he lost his residence permit. Because he was an illegal alien afterwards, he was arrested even more often.

“I was traumatized,” NgoNgo says about that period. “I was violent, really an aggressive person who often also walked around drunk. It was only later that it dawned on me that I was a war child and that this behavior is not normal.”

Osman got his life on track after 2009. He found his faith again, but not his residence permit. Because he also has no identity papers, he is still registered as an illegal alien to this day. Something he doesn’t understand and finds unfair.

“The fact that Osman holds up deserves respect.”

“I’ve been well behaved for years and really tried to get my papers back,” Osman says. He knocked on the door of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) to no avail. “I don’t get the chance to tell my story. There is also something wrong with my surname. My name as registered here cannot be found in Angola. I went to a lawyer, but he says that there is little can be done.”

But therein lies the solution, according to social counselor Johan Eeftink of the aid organization IMW Breda. “It must be a very good lawyer,” he says with a sigh. “Immigration law is very complicated and litigation takes a long time. I come across this often and these people often fall between two stools. The fact that they hold their ground deserves respect.”

The problem, of course, is that Osman can’t afford an expensive lawyer. “He must hope for publicity and the power of the media. That someone wants to take up his case. A crowdfunding campaign could also be something. But he probably has no other option than to report to the legal counter again and hope that there will be being re-tested.”

“I want to live a normal life without fear.”

Going back to Angola is not an option for Osman either. “I have to leave the country, but they don’t want me there either,” he says. “I tried that in 2005, but I can’t get a passport in Angola either. I’m not allowed to stay in the Netherlands, but I’m not allowed to leave either. I have no status, I’m neither Angolan nor Dutch. The great unknown, a stranger .”

Osman NgoNgo now wants to stay in Breda. He spent his childhood there. He has friends there but works and lives there illegally. “I can’t say where, because otherwise they will knock on my door and there will be a mess. I would like to lead a normal life without fear. My dream of going to drama school is probably over. But starting my own company is also beautiful. I hope someone helps me, because I can’t take it anymore.”