We get a lot of phone calls from the Belgian closed centres about arrests at the airport. Among the people arrested, a lot have documents in France, Italy, Belgium, the US and they were transiting through Belgium with a visa in order. The airport officers remained stuck on a picture, a date and … the colour of the traveller! As a result, many find themselves retained in one of our closed centres, sometimes for several months. Just like this woman who has the right to asylum in France, who is living in France with legal documents and who has been retained here in Caricole for almost 3 months, separated from her 3 years old daughter who stayed in France and who is living at a friend for the moment.
And here is another example of the arbitrariness happening at our borders, a statement sent to the media on 29th February 2016:
New blunder by civil servants at Brussels’ National Airport
A voluntary ambassador for the United Nations arrested and retained in a closed centre
Junior Nzita, Congolese, 32 years old, is a former child soldier. For almost 10 years he has been travelling around Europe to do awareness-raising and educate young people on this problematic that is still relevant in Africa. He is chairing the NGO “Peace for Children in DRC” and takes part in the UN campaign #Enfants Pas Soldats. His book ‘If my life as a child soldier could be told’ was published with the support of the Swiss embassy in Kinshasa. Last year, he gave testimonies in front of the European Parliament in Brussels and he gave a lot of conferences in schools in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland.
He was heading to Switzerland when they arrested him during a stop over in Brussels’ National airport on 28th of February. The city of Geneva had foreseen public interventions in the framework of citizenship promotion and a shooting crew with personalities of the UN and the Swiss government were expecting Junior Nzita, notably the federal advisor of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Helvetic Confederation.
They hadn’t counted on the zeal and silliness of the civil servants of the immigration police at Brussels’ airport who assessed that Junior Nzita’s visa was not valid.
The reason behind this? He would have stayed longer than 90 days during his last stay in the Schengen area.
If these civil servants had not succumbed to illegal foreigners hysteria, they would have learnt that an error of date had caused this so-called problem. Nzita did not arrive in Belgium on 2nd of October 2015 but well on 2nd of November 2015. This digit error was rectified at the Belgian embassy of Kinshasa when it delivered a visa to Nzita for his current tour. That civil servants withdraw a visa that is totally in order at the border witnesses an arbitrary judgement and an obvious incompetence, all the more since Junior Nzita had all the required documents in his possession: invitation of the city of Geneva and the cost acceptance by the organisers.
As a result, Junior Nzita spent two days at the closed centre Caricole in Steenokkerzeel. He missed his flight to Geneva financed by Swiss people as well as his first appointments, and apart from the trauma of this arbitrary retention, he is deeply outraged at his unjustified retention.
Warned of this astounding news, militants against closed centre mobilised themselves, a lawyer introduced an appeal, and Junior Nzita was released on 29th February by order of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Without apologies. Without compensation. Just the advice to wait until he reached the Swiss territory to warn the media! It is really tough to be a foreigner in Belgium nowadays!
So, Junior Nzita is “free” but so many others are still being retained. It is true that they do not enjoy the same support!
And it is not better in France:
Roissy backstage: the detention of foreigners in terminals