Closed centres: two testimonies written by hosts

Friday 2 November 2018.

H calls me … He has been retained in Vottem since 23 August « I am not well…; they gave me another room, I am with another man; we are only allowed one hour outside, we don’t see anybody. We even have to eat in our room.”

Through the talking drum I hear that H supposedly tried to commit suicide and that is the reason why he was placed in confinement; a ‘luxury confinement cell’. I went to visit him the week after, after the All Saints break, and tried to know what happened. “Tell me H…” He is ashamed, he doesn’t dare looking at me in the eyes because he knows I am deeply sad about it.

Then he starts talking, with his head hidden in my shoulder…
« I was told: you will be driven to the Ethiopian embassy to check whether they accept to give you a let pass for your deportation.” I said “All right, I am going to the embassy.” There it took 3 minutes! No one talked to me, no one asked me questions, nobody listened to what I had to say. The woman accompanying me signed the papers and we left. Then I was told “You  should request asylum, if not you will go back to Ethiopia”, hence I said “all right, I am requesting asylum”.

The other retainees in the centre told me that if the request was refused I would still be deported. I didn’t want to believe them… Then, an Albanian man who had been there for 6 months, and whose request and appeal were refused was sent back to his country. That’s when I started to believe them… so I found a string which I hid in my bed, for the day when they would also want to deport me. On that day, my life will end in the centre… The educator found the string. They placed me in confinement, with T. We stay the whole day in that room, even to eat, even to go to the bathroom. We are only allowed to go out one hour a day and go take a shower at 7 p.m. They took everything from me, they even took the bracelet you offered me…”

October 2018
Visiting 2 hosts retained in Bruges… “You know, we are not allowed to do anything here, the guards follow us everywhere. The bathroom is the only place they allow us to go alone. If we do not eat, they lock us in a black room in the basement area; the same happens where there are fights, they lock them there too.”
We are all together in the refectory, 3 guards are watching us; I walked through the detector before entering”. However…

One guard enters the room; N’s face freezes, he retreats, with an expression of disgust. « You know, when you leave, he will bring me to my room and I will have to undress totally. They will search me to see if I didn’t hide anything…”
S : « Yes, it is true, they search everything, even our hair, even our anus … ». « The guards are insane here, they are racist; my social assistant too; she never answers my questions, never gives me updated information. I feel very bad when I have to go and see her. We are really super stressed.”



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