Alumni in the Spotlight Webster University Leiden- Joel Antonie

Joel Antonie, Refugee Status Determination at IND and Webster Alumnus
Webster University Alumni in the Spotlight • issue 4, 2015

Alumni in the Spotlight
Joel and I met in the city center of Rotterdam. Normally, he works for the IND, but this morning he gave a guest lecture at an MBO school in the city. One of the things he discussed with the students is that every group in society needs to be included. That’s what Joel is fighting for.

The refugee crisis
The IND just hired a lot of new people because of the refugee crisis. Basically, my job wouldn’t exist if it were not for the refugee crisis. That’s the case with every humanitarian job. One man‘s crisis is another man’s opportunity. At the IND, I inter-view the asylum seekers, write the decisions, and train new people. In the news, you hear about asylum seekers and refugees and it’s always talked about in numbers. When they do share a personal story, they pick out stories where something isn’t right. It makes it sound like there are a lot of bad refugees. However, when you interview them, you find out that each person has a story. Some have lost their kids, some have had their parents kid-napped, and one has a brother who is missing. Pretty much everyone has something. It’s really a privilege when you get to hear the stories first hand and can help them to start their new life here.

Forgotten people
The first time I went to Webster it was for a sample class. The topic was about the Holocaust. I will re-member it forever. We had to choose a picture of the pictures that were taken in Germany during the Holocaust and tell a story about why the picture interest-ed us. I chose this picture of two German kids playing during the Holocaust; it looked like a fun time, but at the same time, there were people suffering in concentration camps around the corner.

“One’s man crisis is another’s man opportunity.”

I think that’s illustrative because the work that I’ve ended up doing is dealing with the people who don’t get the majority of the attention, the people who the world has forgotten about: who die in refugee camps during the winter or who live in refugee camps for twenty years with no outside attention while every-one else goes about playing, having fun, getting the newest iPhone. There is nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, I think that we need to remember the people. It’s not just during the Holocaust; it’s not just during the refugee crisis. It’s continuous.

Involvement in society
This morning I gave a guest lecture at an MBO school. They ask me to come in once in a while and discuss an issue that is completely different from what the students usually talk about. Today I did a series on how young people can be involved in socie-ty or politics. We actually discussed a lot of things that I learned from Webster University, especially from my favorite professors, Anne de Graaf and Pe-ter van Krieken. I also discussed the difference be-tween how you can use your voice instead of vio-lence. There are a few violent people in that group, and they seem to be surrounded by violence. It’s the most important thing to make sure that every group in society is included. However, they told me that
they don’t feel attracted to traditional political parties. But I told them, even though they may not be interested, they should get involved and make it attractive for their peers. Someone has to start somewhere; someone has to start becoming an influence.

Hold on to your passion
When I was young, one of my favorite children‘s books was The Book of Rule, and it had a page about each country, describing its form of government and head of state. Back then, I wasn’t aware that that was my passion. When I came to Webster, I had no idea which field of international affairs I was interested in. It was during my second semester when I met Peter van Krieken. In international law class, he taught with such energy and drive. The way that he could talk about international law and migration got me really interested in this field. Every time his name was on the schedule, I signed up for his classes. That’s what gave me the motivation to study migration and asylum. A really great teacher knows how to pull the best potential out of his/her students and recognize the passion that students have but haven’t directed yet. Peter van Krieken did that for me. Unfortunately, he passed away recently.

“We should never forget about our passion.”

I have learned that we should never forget about our passion, because the day you forget about your passion and why you’re living, that’s the day to give up. The one responsibility that you have is to keep chasing your passion, to keep fighting for the injustice that’s against your principles of justice. And I don’t care what your principles are, as long we keep the dialogue open. As long as we keep seeing how we can do something to improve the world. Whatever small part we can play as individuals, keep going!

Interview by Laura Weijers
Edited by Allison Kirk