Detention centre in Jumet: Magnette’s racist rhetoric to justify his arrangements with De Moor

On 19 February 2024, a question was asked to Mayor Paul Magnette (PS) at a local council meeting(1) about plans for a future closed centre in Jumet. This project, which now seems to be supported by Magnette, appeared in 2017 in the “masterplan for closed centres”, launched at the time by former Secretary of State Théo Francken (NVA). 

In response to a question from a local councillor, Paul Magnette began by announcing that Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) had informed him that the Régie des bâtiments would shortly be applying for planning permission for a plot of land next to the federal police in Jumet. In his view, there is no contradiction between hosting an open centre and a closed centre. In so doing, he drew a distinction between ‘good and bad migrants’, a strategy borrowed from the right and extreme right. He justifies his remarks by saying that they had obtained in the government agreement that no children would be locked up, which would be ‘great progress’. At the same time, he ignored the campaigns of reformist associations and the many militant and autonomous actions against the confinement of children in closed centres.

In a firm tone, he concludes by saying that the orders to leave the territory must be enforced for illegal residents who have committed criminal acts (he mentions drug trafficking and human trafficking). He added: “These people who are residing illegally on our territory and who are undermining the security of our fellow citizens must be deported to their countries of origin. I have no qualms about this. We must send the criminals back to their countries on the one hand, and welcome here on the other the families fleeing war and dictatorship […]”.

An opportunistic change of position

According to the press(2) in 2019, Charleroi’s municipal college was “firmly opposed to the project” and said it wanted to do “everything in its power to block this project, wanted and imposed by the federal government”. In the meantime, the PS has joined the federal government and the Vivaldi  is worth more than the lives of undocumented migrants. Magnette has cowardly reneged on his commitments and, what is worse, he has taken up the language and lies of the far right in a completely unabashed manner.

Populism and racist lies

The belief that people detained in closed centres are criminals is a lie. A very large proportion of them have committed no crime, and yet find themselves detained for the sole reason that they have been refused a residence permit by a State that is increasingly reducing the possibilities of living with dignity and legally in Belgium. 

For those who have actually been convicted, Magnette’s words are no better than those of the self-assumed right. Such comments, and more broadly these convictions, prevent us from understanding these criminal acts as consequences of precariousness, which is itself induced by forced illegal residence. These statements and the resulting decisions not only make invisible all the discrimination faced by undocumented migrants throughout the criminal justice system (from police racial profiling to racism in court), but also reinforce it. Lastly, Magnette’s words and actions are helping to harden the phenomenon of double (3), which has been logically denounced by many organisations.

No to the planning permission that will be requested by the Régie des bâtiments.

No to the criminalisation of undocumented migrants.

No to the racist logic of sorting between asylum seekers who would be “acceptable”, and undocumented migrants designated as “undesirable”.

No to the Jumet closed centre !

(1) See here: https://www.charleroi.be/vie-communale/conseil-communal#376608-videos-des-conseils-communaux (2h37min40)

(2) https://www.rtbf.be/article/charleroi-le-ministre-carlo-di-antonio-dit-non-a-un-centre-ferme-a-jumet-10215958

(3) https://www.streetpress.com/sujet/1601975896-prison-centre-retention-double-peine-etrangers-sans-papier

Ce contenu a été publié dans Migration policy, News from the centres, Struggle stories. Vous pouvez le mettre en favoris avec ce permalien.