Conversations through the fences at the Steenokkerzeel detention centres

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On the 13th of May about twenty people shouted rage against the closed centres (1) in front of the 127bis and Caricole detention centres

Located in Steenockerzeel, 127bis has existed since 1994. It was placed right next to Zaventem airport in order to reduce the costs of (mostly forced) deportations. It was built according to a prison model with 4 wings lined with three fences. The centre of Caricole was built in 2010 a hundred metres away. In this detention centre, people arrested at the border at Zaventem airport are detained. The conditions of detention in these centres are very often inhumane. Several testimonies collected over the years prove this (2).

Through this action, we wanted to stay in contact with the detainees,as well as to physically show our solidarity, and to exchange directly with the detainees through the fences. It is a way for us to remind them that many people are in deep disagreement with the repressive and racist logics put in place by the Belgian state. During this action, conversations trough the fences with the detainees took place. We were able to exchange with the people inside, slogans were chanted together and numbers were exchanged.

During the exchanges, the detainees shouted “freedom ! They told us that there were a lot of them inside at the moment.

Not all the feedback was positive. A detainee in 127bis, visibly disillusioned with the demonstration, expressed his annoyance, pointing out that this kind of action would not lead to the liberation of the people locked up. It is true that this demonstration will not give them back their freedom. And we totally understand this kind of reaction, which is justified and legitimate. We hear this and share it. But for us in addition to communicating direct support to the people locked up, these demonstrations are one of the necessary steps in a wider struggle against borders and their violent systems.

This is why it is important to continue to support the imprisoned people and to fight the repressive mechanisms of the Belgian state and the European Union towards undocumented migrants. Moreover, demonstrations had already taken place in recent months in front several closed centres : at Merksplas (following the death of a person after a hunger strike (3)), at Holsbeek (closed centre for women) or at Vottem.

Today the European Union is about to adopt an Asylum and Migration Pact – aimed at reinforcing the external borders of the European Union – before the European elections of 2024.
On the European territory, these repressive logics translate into the tracking down of undocumented people, through detentions and expulsion. As a result, thousands of people, relentlessly pursued by the authorities, risk their lives every day. Let us recall that on 17 May, five years ago, a two-year-old Kurdish girl, Mawda, was killed by the Belgian police (4).

In the meantime, inside the centres, the prisoners are resisting, as shown by the recent riot at the Merksplas detention centre (5). Their revolt resounds outside the walls and gates. Solidarity with the prisoners. Freedom and regularisation for all. Set fire to the closed centres !

No borders, no nations, freedom of movement !

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