Dutch nationals face trial in Latvia for smuggling out sister

Abdulaal Hussein on a still from the television programme

Two young Dutch nationals are facing prison sentences in Latvia for trying to smuggle out refugees, including one of the duo’s sister.

Abdulaal Hussein, who came to the Netherlands from Sudan as a refugee himself, and his friend Martine Doppen were attempting to rescue his sister who had been abandoned by people smugglers in Latvia with four other refugees.

The duo, who told their story in talk show Beau, found his sister at an abandoned farm after flying to Latvia from Lithuania in November.

“She was drinking melt water from snow. (..) The other refugees had bloody feet from walking. One woman was pregnant and very weak and another could not walk at all,” Doppen told the programme.

They then left with Hussein’s sister Mabroka and two of the other refugees in the car they had hired and managed to drive safely back to Lithuania.

Following agonised calls from the man and woman who stayed behind because they were afraid their location would become known, Hussein and Martine decided to return to the farm to pick them up.

“We saw what their fate would be and that they might die. We would never forgive ourselves,” Doppen said.

“I was a refugee myself and I know what it’s like to be powerless. That man and that woman had given everything, their families had given everything to try to help them,” Hussein said.

However, on their way back to Lithuania the car was stopped by customs. Hussein and Doppen were interrogated and charged with people trafficking, The two refugees were sent over the border to Belarus.

Doppen was released and allowed to return to the Netherlands after paying €6,000, but it took a month and €30,000 for Hussein, who was told he would have to await trial in Latvia, to be released as well. “I can only think I got out quicker because I’m white and he is black”, Doppen commented.

The pair’s lawyer Friederieke Dölle said the road ahead would be “complicated”. “It’s normally criminals who engage in people smuggling. But even if your intentions are good you can still be prosecuted for it,” she said.

“If there’s nothing to be done, I will go to prison knowing I wanted to help my sister. I’m not sorry,” Hussein said.

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