Samir Karim flees Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army. After wandering through Asia and Europe for seven years, he arrives in the Netherlands. Once there, they detain him in a centre for asylum seekers – a centre where he will remain for nine years.
He tries to get along with the other 500 people in the asylum centre, a motley crew, some of whom are described at some length and with considerable compassion. He is critical of, but also mildly amused, by the bureaucrats at the asylum centre, social services, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The system and the bureaucratic rules are sometimes bordering on the absurd. The book allows us to see our society with different eyes.
Samir’s attempts to make the best of his prolonged detention have much in common with the plight of the stateless Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal.