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

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

Yendri, mobilizing LGBTIQ+ communities in Venezuela
Yendri works on advancing the rights of Venezuelan LGBTIQ+ individuals. Find out more about his work through a podcast episode and documentary.
Shelter City Utrecht
Nataliia, a journalist in service of human rights
Nataliia documents human rights violations and the plight of minorities such as the LGBTQ+ community, migrants, and people living with HIV.
Shelter City Nijmegen
Angel Sulub, keeping Mayan values alive
Angel, an indigenous rights defender from Mexico, shares how he is working to keep Mayan values alive.
Shelter City Nijmegen
Juvie, using documentation as a tool against injustice
Juvie, a human rights defender from the Philippines, shares her journey of over a decade in grassroots activism and documenting human rights violations.
Shelter City Maastricht
Iván, reflecting on his journey as a human rights defender
Iván, former diplomat and Shelter City Amsterdam guest, shares his personal journey of becoming a human rights defender.
Shelter City Amsterdam
Iván, reflexionando sobre su trayectoria como defensor de los derechos humanos
Iván, antiguo diplomático y huésped de Shelter City Amsterdam, comparte su trayectoria personal como defensor de los derechos humanos.
Shelter City Amsterdam
Kiruba, fighting caste cruelties in India
Read Kiruba's story of challenging caste-based atrocities and discrimination in India.
Shelter City Nijmegen
Arsène, adding drops of justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Arsène shares his story as a human rights defender and lawyer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Shelter City The Hague

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