Issa Salah, 50 years old. Palestinian detained in detention centre 127bis since 12 September 2011. Interviewed on Sunday 30 October 2011
Listen to the interview (ENG) :[audio:http://gettingthevoiceout.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/itw-palestinian_01.mp3|titles=itw-palestinian_01]
This is not a transcript of the interview. Mr Issa Salah asked us to add in some important points which he didn’t get the chance to talk about during the interview. He wants his story to be heard and retold.
“Issa Salahhas learnt one thing here: if you are a refugee you are not welcome in Europe, they put you in prison for having committed no crime, they treat you with no respect at all. He advises everyone and he will continue to advise everyone, to stay on Arabic territory. He thought he could fight for a free Palestine from Europe, but now he sees he is not welcome and has no rights here. He wants either to return to Palestine and be reunited with his family where his brothers and sisters are, or to stay in Belgium with his son.”
When Issa was 6 years old his family fled Palestine. They settled in Beirut in the refugee camp Tel Al Za’atar. Due to the status of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, he was, like all the other refuges, schooled entirely in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools.
When he was 14 his camp was attacked by kata’eb Lebanese militias and he became a fighter to protect it. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ordered the fighters to retreat towards the Beqaa zone in east Lebanon. He stayed there for a while before returning to Beirut with the PLO.
Following fighting in south Lebanon he returned to armed combat where he lost many friends. He had his own brush with death during an Israeli army raid. In the same year, after the PLO were forced to leave Lebanon he went to Syria to study (thanks to an agreement with the Syrian regime he had the opportunity to study dentistry there).
After the Syrian government stopped supporting Fatah he was sentenced to 3 months in prison for political activism and for being a Fatah supporter. They threatened to deport him if he continued his political activities. Under the agreed evacuation plan, like most of the PLO fighters he was sent to Cyprus before he chose to be moved on to Sudan.
With Pauline Cutting (MAP) he returned to Lebanon. He lived in Burj IL Barajneh where Palestinian refugees were living in appalling conditions.
He returned to Sudan after spending some time in Cyprus where he worked as a dentist.
He goes back to Lebanon. He learns that the Syrian government supported ‘Fatah al Intifada’ militant group had killed his father due to his support for the PLO. He worked at the Bar Elias Red Crescent hospital in Beqaa. He married and had children.
One day while he was at work he was the subject of an assassination attempt. The patient he was treating at the time was hit in the back by the bullets and was left disabled.
Those who carried out the attack were known to the Lebanese authorities but they refused to register the incident. He says that the attack was politically motivated.
He also worked with Fatah and the PLO in Lebannon where he was in charge of investigating corruption within the two groups. He said that his boss was killed (Dr Kamal Mithat) as he was in possession of documents that proved corruption within Fatah.
Fatah members attacked his home. Lebanese intelligence tells him to leave Lebanon because they are unable to ensure his security in the country.
11 October 2009
He leaves Lebanon on a false passport after 44 years of living with no rights. He leaves behind his wife and his son, hoping to be able to send for them to join him in Europe.
He searches for a democratic country where human rights apply to continue his activism, somewhere he can be recognised as a real citizen. Issa Salah decides to try and get to Copenhagen. He crosses Turkey and arrives in Budapest, Hungary.
He is detained and spends 230 days in different Hungarian prisons. His digital fingerprints are taken 17 times, and he says he was subjected to numerous interrogations to get information out of him about his political activities.
On 21 April 2010 he was transferred to an open centre so he can claim asylum in Hungary. He doesn’t want to claim asylum in Hungary due to the way he has been treated. He obtains an Egyptian passport which he uses to travel to Syria.
He arrives in Syria andseeks medical help but he doesn’t want to stay in the country. He tries to renew his Palestinian passport. He gets it in December 2010 along with proof that he left Hungary over 3 months ago and that he has been staying in Syria.
He travels to Belgium looking for his son who has been there since January 2010. He travels by car and arrives in Istanbul on 25 January 2011. He leaves Turkey in a lorry and arrives in Belgium on 2 February 2011.
3 February 2011
Issa Salah claims asylum at the CGRA in Brussels. He is sent to an open centre in Gembloux. After 4 months he is transferred to another open centre in Herbaymont. There he finds out that his asylum claim has been refused. An asylum request on medical grounds is also refused.
12 September 2011
He is called for an interview at the Immigration Office where he is stopped and transferred to detention centre 127bis. They tell him that he will be sent to Hungary.
Issa Salah is very scared. He doesn’t want to go back to Hungary after the terrible treatment he experienced there. His lawyer obtained a suspension of his deportation to Hungary.
They also made him sign a document that says he won’t claim asylum anymore in any European country. Issa Salah has signed this document (without the agreement of his lawyer) and requested voluntary return to Palestine.
19 October 2011
Issa learns that Israel has refused his request to return to Palestine and that they won’t issue him a green card.
They are threatening to send him back to Syria as it is the country he passed through to get to Belgium. For fear of being sent back to Syria where he would face problems due to his links to activism and the PLO, he has now asked for voluntary return to Lebanon (even though he knows that in Lebanon he is also at risk because of his political opinions).
In the detention centre conditions are very difficult: very bad food, one toilet for 30 detainees, very low temperatures. In addition he has major health problems and suffers from several illnesses. He has several forthcoming appointments with medical specialists throughout November and December and it seems likely that he will have to undergo surgery.
His lawyer has reintroduced his request for regularisation based on medical grounds and she suggests making a request for the status ‘stateless’ because he can’t return to Palestine or Lebanon. But Issa Salah doesn’t want to be ‘stateless’; he wants to be able to move freely and return to Palestine so he can see his family.
25 November 20011
He will be taken to the Lebanese embassy so they can approve his deportation to Lebanon…
To be continued…