Historically, Haarlem has always been a city of shelter. During the First World War, Haarlem offered shelter to over 4000 Belgian people seeking refuge. In 2017, the municipality of Haarlem, Vluchtelingenwerk Haarlem, and debate and culture venue, de Pletterij, welcomed their first human rights defender to Haarlem. Since then, it has continued to provide a safe and welcoming space where everybody can think freely, speak openly, and live peacefully.

Our support

Rest and re-energize

Shelter City Haarlem offers human rights defenders a place to rest and re-energize, away from the danger and intensity that comes with their work. Here, human rights defenders are provided a safe and secure space to focus on their well-being, where they can explore Haarlem’s historic centre and beautiful surrounding landscapes, and care for their health.

Tailored support and capacity-building

During their stay in Shelter City Haarlem, human rights defenders can access the knowledge, tools, and practices needed to strengthen their capacities for when they return. We offer them physical and physiological support, and activities such as language courses, recreation, and more. The support we provide is tailored and adapted to the defenders’ needs to ensure a comfortable stay.

Engage with local allies

We organize events where human rights defenders can connect with a large network of figures in the field of human rights, such as politicians, civil society representatives, academicians, and journalists who reinforce the defenders’ activism, as well as their cause. We also support defenders in raising awareness for their work and the human rights situation in their country.

Our team

Wanda Steiger
Wanda Steiger

Project leader at VluchtelingenWerk and co-coordinator of Shelter City Haarlem

Arno Duivestein
Arno Duivestein

Director of de Pletterij and co-coordinator of Shelter City Haarlem


Shelter City Haarlem is supported by a group of 8 volunteers.

Our stories

Wiecza, fighting for a better future for Venezuela
Learn more about Wiecza, a Venezuelan lawyer and human rights defender.
Shelter City Eindhoven
Numan, fighting for LGBTIQ+ rights in Malaysia
Learn more about Numan and his work to support the LGBTIQ+ community in Malaysia.
Shelter City Amsterdam
Manjula Pradeep, the inspiring activist behind Shelter City
Manjula Pradeep is an Indian human rights defenders and the inspiration behind Shelter City.
Shelter City Europe
Meet Caroline Rucah, Kenyan LGBTIQ+ rights defender
Watch a short documentary and learn more about Caroline Rucah, LGBTIQ+ rights defenders from Kenya.
Shelter City Utrecht
Asha’s photo hangs proudly on my wall
Nikki supports human rights defenders that stay in Shelter City Rotterdam. According to Nikki, being a part of Shelter City has changed her life.
Shelter City Rotterdam
Louisa and Asha: defending human rights in Nigeria and India during the COVID-19 pandemic
Louisa and Asha are two human rights defenders and former Shelter City guests who shared with us how their work has changed during the pandemic.
Shelter City Rotterdam
Mohammed Azaiza shares his experience of being stuck in Gaza while dreaming of Amsterdam
Mohammed Azaiza is a human rights defender from Gaza who was unable to relocate to Shelter City.
Shelter City Amsterdam
How William’s perseverance left a mark on numerous residents of Nijmegen
Yara was part of the Shelter City Nijmegen team for two years. During her time, she met inspiring human rights defenders such as William from Uganda.
Shelter City Nijmegen

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