Testimony from a man imprisoned in centre 127bis. He has been in Belgium for 7 years and has been active in the struggle for the rights of undocumented people.
I think immigration has become a political weapon. People who criminalise immigration or immigrants forget that Obama is the son of an immigrant, for example. The same goes for Sarkozy and Elio Di Rupo. They want to make us believe the opposite. They tell us we are in a country where the rule of law exists.
I have lived in Brussels for 7 years. I was there when the hunger strikes took place at Béguinage. They got their papers. At the Saint Boniface church in place Saint Catherine I was there and they got their papers. In churches in Saint-Gilles and Forest lots of people got regularised after hunger strikes, I was there too. I have requested regularisation and I meet all the criteria. Although my case was valid, it was rejected. It’s in full knowledge of all the facts that I say that.
How long have you been in the centre for?
I’ve been in the centre since 17 March. They came knocking at my door while I was out visiting a friend. Apparently they were looking for someone else. They asked my friend if he knew the person they were looking for and then they went on to check all our identities. They called the immigration service to check. They asked me if I was legally in Belgium and I told them I was waiting for a decision following my request for leave to remain. They said that wasn’t a valid reason for being in the country so they took me to the police where I was locked-up over night. The next day I was transferred to centre 127bis. I got a lawyer. He appealed and it was negative. A second appeal was also rejected. He advised me to stop these appeals because they were hopeless. I completely met the criteria for the 2009 regularisation. My studies allowed me to prove that I was on Belgian territory legitimately. I have friends who vouched for me: over 60 people, all Belgian. I had an employer and a work contract. My case was accepted; I even went to the commune to pick up my identity card. But every time I went to the commune they made me wait while they checked my file, they told me that my case had been accepted and that I’d soon receive an official notice.
I waited for a year but I didn’t receive any such notice. I even got my work permit. Then one day they wrote to me to tell me they were withholding it again. I no longer had an employer. I don’t know if he went bankrupt or what but the main thing is that I no longer had a work permit.
And how many deportation attempts have you been subjected to?
I’m expecting my third one at the moment. The first one was on a military flight, there was a technical problem and the flight was cancelled. The second was on Friday, I was on the reserve list, incase someone didn’t leave.
And were there lots of you on the reserve list?
There were 5 reserves. It’s always the same thing. They come to get you the day before, around 5pm, just before dinnertime. You no longer have access to anything. They tell you that you have a flight to take the next day and they put you in isolation.
And did the others leave that time?
Yes, the others left: in a van and then on a plane. They were probably tied-up as it was a military plane.
Were there a lot of them?
And they didn’t manage to resist?
There were much more soldiers than them. Once you are tied-up you can’t really do much, very quickly they start to treat you badly. I know someone who ended up in hospital because he was so badly treated. It’s hard, after 7 years in Brussels I was suddenly stopped and told I was being deported the next day. I am not prepared morally or psychologically to be taken to Africa. Do you know what that would mean?
I have been in Brussels for 7 years, moral varies from detainee to detainee.
Do you think there will be other group deportations?
Yes there will be a group flight in June. Starting from next week the flights will restart. If you refuse to leave on a tourist flight you have to leave on a military flight.
So whatever happens you will be deported?
Yes. That’s right. You need to spread the word. In a crisis deportations cost the state a lot of money: money that could be better spent on welfare. We deport people who don’t take anything from the system yet we set aside money to deport them, I don’t understand. It shouldn’t be like that. There are no human rights here.