Based on our information, several cases of coronavirus have been detected at the closed centre for foreigners in Vottem. To date, there are 4 persons with the virus among the retained, and 8 among the staff. « Outside », however, sanitary measures are strict and so severely repressed when not followed… hence, when we organised our yearly demonstration against the closed centre of Vottem on 9 May, we had to obey a lot of rules, for a gathering under specific conditions, and the usual march from Liège to Vottem was forbidden.
Since the first confinement, it is not the first time that this chaotic but foreseeable situation has happened: the virus entered through the barbed wire, probably spread by the staff members who have a life, social contacts etc. contrarily to the retained people. Indeed, for the latter, and since a long time now, visits happen under surveillance and behind a Plexiglas. While staff members obviously have the opportunity to go back to their home and benefit from adequate care, it is absolutely not true for the retained people. According to the testimonies we’ve heard, the retained people who have COVID have been placed in isolation cells! What does an isolation cell look like in Vottem? Is is a tiny room, all in concrete, with a tiny window like a dormer window, a mattress on a concrete bedrock, almost on the floor, a toilet bowl inside the cell, and a small sink. Hygiene conditions in isolation cells are appalling. The isolation is effectively complete; security guards come from time to time to check that “everything is ok” from behind the armoured door.
Whether sick or asymptomatic, an isolation cell has nothing to do with a medical confinement measure, and an isolation cell is definitely not a place where one gets cured! Among the people struck by the virus, some are sick and we are extremely worried about the quality of the medical follow-up they get; the isolation as such may even exacerbate the symptoms and be very damaging (humidity, cold, lack of hygiene)! It is also stressing and stigmatising, would one have “made the mistake” to fall sick?
Besides, preventive measures are utterly ridiculous: a few retained asked for hydro-alcoholic gel, which was refused to them. In this pandemic crisis, each and everyone of us should have the right to health protection, health care and vaccination. Closed centres for foreigners are in all respects an exceptional regime, including in this area. Let us remind that these centres only aim at implementing deportation measures and at breaking down the resistance of the people in front of this planned deportation; people who wanted to build their lives here but who did not get their residence permit because of the restrictive policies of Fortress Europe in matter of asylum and immigration.
On ‘Getting the Voice Out’ website, you’ll find loads of testimonies collected in the different closed centres.
We remind our claims, more valid today than ever, in this situation of world pandemic:
Suppression of closed centres !
Immediate cessation of deportations!
Freedom of movement and settlement!