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Former prison now a hotel run by refugees

View of the former Bijlmerbajes prison.

Former prison now a hotel run by refugees

What was once the Netherlands' most notorious prison is now a hotel staffed and run by asylum-seekers.

Former prison now a hotel run by refugees

A once-infamous Dutch prison, Bijlmerbajes, has been transformed into The Movement Hotel, a unique institution run by refugees.

Located in Amsterdam, Bijlmerbajes took its names from the nearby neighbourhood, Biljmer, and the Yiddish slang word for jail, “bajes.” Formerly home to the Netherland’s most egregious criminals, the building now stands as a hopeful vision for the future of asylum-seekers.

The Movement Hotel is entirely staffed and managed by refugees, most of whom are Syrian. The workers are chosen from a group of 600 refugees and housed by the Dutch government temporarily in a separate part of the building.

The concept came to life thanks to Amsterdam local Rob Hoogerwerf, who organised everything with the help of donations and Dutch authorities. While the residence status of the refugee staff is not permanent, Hoogerwerf explains that they are progressing towards a skills certificate which will let them work in global hospitality industries. “We are helping them, or at least we would like to help them, to find their way,” he says.

Despite their uncertain future, the staff view the opportunity as a way to enhance their skills and experience so they can ensure a better future. Hotel manager Hachem explains that, while he hopes to gain long-term permission to stay in the Netherlands, he knows there is a chance he may have to return to Syria when the country is in a safer state.

The hotel offers visitors a unique experience, with cell rooms providing views over the prison exercise yard. Each room has a meaningful word displayed on the wall that acknowledges the building’s reinvention, such as “freedom?” 99-140 euros night will get you a comfortable private room with wifi, parking and exceptional service.

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