The mattress technique: a story heard many times before.

“The last 2 times they attempted to deport me, (I have been subjected to seven attempts now), they pushed me to the ground in the van on the way back to the cell and squashed me under a mattress before beating me up through it with their feet for what seemed like forever!! The mattress doesn’t reduce the pain at all, but it does mean no marks or bruises from the punches are left on the skin. Yet this type of senseless violence has left plenty of marks on my heart.”

“They kept talking to us and harassing us (they would say: ‘get ready to go back’) for hours on end all through the night, to stop us from getting to sleep the night before a 10am scheduled deportation flight.”

“She was separated from her baby. They threatened her by telling her that her baby would be sent away and lost forever if she continued to resist.”

“The tied us down from head to toe, then the police hit us on different parts of the body, on the ribs, the arms and the head.”

“To get me into the plane there were several police officers carrying me, my feet were no longer touching the ground.”

“They undressed me, tore off my underwear, made me bend over to see if I was hiding anything: ‘We are going to wrap you up like a product!’”

“Once again in the van: beatings, insults: ‘dirty whore’; ‘filthy dirty nigger’; ‘next time it will be with the army!’…”

“I was held down by 5 police officers while a guard put some kind of product in my mouth. Then I fell half unconscious.”

“During my second deportation attempt the police broke my jaw, and that is not to mention the humiliation, the racist insults and the punches they subjected me to, all of which have been confirmed by a medical certificate from Vottem.”

“I was brought against my will – barefoot and in my boxer shorts – to an aeroplane that I refused to get into. As a result I was locked-up half naked in a cold concrete room from 7h to 15h without anything to eat or drink.”

The type of force used during deportations can be categorised into three stages:
At the first deportation attempt, the detainee can in principle refuse to get into the aeroplane, so they are then brought back to the detention centre (interviews confirm that force is often used during the first deportation attempt).

The second stage is forcible deportation without an escort, but where constraining strategies are planned (by that we mean that using violent methods is tacitly accepted). If the person is able to resist they will taken back to the detention centre.

The third stage is accompanied deportation. The person is handcuffed and is often ‘sausaged’ (wrists and ankles tied up with bands of velcro). The level of violence is clearly much higher after several deportation attempts. The police are much less accommodating with someone who has successfully resisted several times…

A fourth possibility also exists; this consists of deportation on a ‘secure flight’. In these cases some ‘specific methods of constraint may be employed’: full-contact karate foam helmet to avoid blows to the head, a leather belt strung between two metal rings attached to leather straps wrapped around the wrists, velcro bands to strap the person into a seat… (We hardly dare imagine what the conditions are like for the rest of the journey on these flights!)

Practices currently forbidden:
Obstruction, complete or partial, of respiratory passageways. (They didn’t work that one out all by themselves though, it took someone to die before this rule was put in place – remember SEMIRA ADAMU)
Administering sedatives or any sort of medicine to control someone against their will.
Handcuffs are to be used strictly in exceptional situations, particularly during long take-offs and landing periods.

But as you can see, these rules don’t match up to the stories recounted here, and the absence of external observers during transfers and deportations leads us to believe that these rules (or ‘safety precautions’) are not really being followed.
What’s more, there is no mention of the use of mattresses as a ‘constraint method’. So is it a personal initiative or a trick passed around between colleagues at work?

Authorised conduct:
Physical constraint, locking the shoulders, folding arms behind the back, locking the legs, a knee in the neck, handcuffing on the ground and on the aeroplane…And of course, all that is done with the greatest respect for the detainee – man, woman or child…

SEMIRA ADAMU (to remember her and ensure that the ‘cushion technique’ is never used again!)

On 22 September 1998 during her sixth deportation attempt, Semira Adamu passed away. Nine police officers and three Sabena security staff had been brought in to deal with this ‘particularly difficult’ case.
The six extra police officers formed a circle around her to make a screen shielding what was happening from the other passengers. Her hands and her feet were bound with plastic handcuffs, and when the passengers came in she started to sing. Straight away the police officers put a cushion over her mouth and they folded her in two by twisting her arms behind her back, and by pushing her face into the cushion that was being pressed onto her face with the force of one of the police officer’s knees. Two officers performed the ‘cushion technique’ for 15 minutes. Semira choked and fell into a coma. She died that night at the St Luc Hospital in Brussels.

Hearing these types of stories is incredibly worrying! What can no longer be done with a cushion is being done with a mattress without any scrutiny at all!

NO detention centres!
NO deportations!
NO to Fortress Europe!