We're all familiar with television and newspaper coverage on asylum seekers. But what really goes on behind the gates of a detention centre is less well kwn. Dimitri Verhulst, an investigative journalist, had himself locked up in the asylum seekers centre at Arendonk for several days for the Flemish magazine Deus ex Machina. He then wrote a magazine article, but the experience would t let go of him. He lived with people whose days and dreams are full of the horrors they have endured, the humiliating conditions in the centre, the contact with the human smugglers, and the hopeless attempts to reach England - frequently in cargo containers where they are in danger of suffocation. The result is an unabashedly politically incorrect vel, Problemski Hotel. Told from the perspective of asylum seeker, Bipul Masli, a photographer for the press from Somalia, the action takes place in an asylum seekers centre in Belgium, in the final weeks of 2001. We are given a series of incidents in the lives of the asylum seekers - the man who tries unsuccessfully to get a wife through a dating agency, the prisoner who writes a spoof guidebook extolling the virtues of the centre (this is the Hotel of the book's title), and more tragically, the woman who bears a child and then murders the baby rather than bring new life into the asylum centre.
Dimitri Verhulst made his debut in 1999 with 'De kamer hiernaast/The Room Next Door' (Contact), a volume of short stories. His use of language is direct and he possesses a strong sense of humor, albeit a highly cynical one. Survivalist humor.