A great part of the retainees in closed centres are actually former prisonners to whom documents were withdrawn following a condemnation for infringement to public policy or for a minor offence (speeding, unpaid fines, etc.). They are picked up at their home or transferred from prison to a closed centre in view of their deportation.
The possibility to deport a ‘delinquent’ immigrant after they have served their sentence exists since 1980 1. Deportation is not a judicial measure, hence it is not really a sentence but rather an administrative measure, which depends on the Minister of the Interior.
Being applied in an erratic way, it seems obvious that it is more a political strategy than the enforcement of a law.
In the years 1990, ministerial circulars (SP) somehow conformed its use and specified that those measures should not be applied to foreigners of the second generation unless under exceptional circumstances, i.e van attacks, pedophilia, important drugs trafficking, etc.
In 2005 (OpenVLD) a law puts an end to this possibility since it specifies that foreigners who were born in Belgium or who arrived in Belgium before 12 years old can no longer be deported. The spouses of Belgians and the parents of Belgian children can no longer be deported unless in extremely rare cases2.
However, since then, Michel’s government came by, with Jan Jambon, the friend of a certain Theo Franken (NV-A) holding office, and in 2017 the “Order to leave the territory was revalorised”. Here we are: assumed racist law that enables to deport foreigners without any judgement, even if they were born and legally residing here.
This contextual setting seems necessary to us in order to explain the absolutely staggering possibility applied by the Foreigners Office in case of minor offences against a foreign person living in Belgium for years or since always, knowing that the appeals have no suspensive effect!
The offences we hear from are sometimes speeding or unpaid fines! The people are then transferred from prison directly to a closed centre in view of their deportation.
Some of them arrived here when they were children, others were born here. In general, they have all their family residing legally here, or even with the Belgian nationality. Some never ever set foot in the country where the Foreigners Office want to deport them to!
They are desperate, some are revolting. Informed by their embassy that “no deportation would happen before beginning 2021” they refuse this new discriminatory retention:
« We served our sentence, we paid for our crap. Why we, foreigners, are being doubly punished?
The most recalcitrants are punished and transferred to the secured wing in Vottem, where they are totally isolated from the outside world and social contacts. Sometimes they stay there for several months.
« It’s torture, madam. »
« They are tyrans. »
Testimonies from the green wing, in 2015.
Nothing has changed : https://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/testimony-secured-wing-of-the-closed-centre-of-vottem-27042015/
At the time when media all over the world are gargling to speak about racism and relaying the demonstrations of thousands and thousands of human beings throughout the world denouncing institutional racism, here in Belgium the double racist and discriminatory penalty is being trivialised. No one reacts, no one denounces.
“There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil” (Rabbi Heschel, friend of Dr Martin Luther King)
STOP CLOSED CENTRES
NO TO DOUBLE PENALTY
1 law of 15 December 1980 on the access to territory, stay, establishment and return of the foreigners
2 modification of article 21 of the law of 1980