Escape attempt in Merksplas and news from Bruges

23 April 2020


Since the publication by RTBF on 9 April 2020 of the article « Nourriture avariée, cachot pour les malades, distanciation pas respectée : le quotidien dans un centre fermé au temps du coronavirus » (Rotten food, solitary confinement cells for the sick, failure to respect distancing: the daily life in a closed centre during Covid-19) and the visit of Myria who confirmed the retainees’ saying, repression goes on in the centre.
Despite the food being less rotten, the tension in the centre remains extremely palpable.

On 10 April, there was a general search: body and cells.

Masks were distributed (of very poor quality according to the retainees), however the majority of guards do not wear them. Rumours about staff members infected by the COVID only increase the fears and anxiety of the retainees.

« Who else could bring the virus here. They are the only ones who have contacts with the outside.”

20 April : « Yesterday, during the meal, the room of two retainees was searched. Nothing has changed: there is still no hot water in the showers.”

21 April :
Five people tried to escape around 8 p.m but they got caught up. After this escape attempt, the whole 3A wing was searched, the retainees had to undress and were totally naked. One retainee completely freaked out and broke everything with a fire extinguisher: doors, windows, cupboards.

« All the retainees had to strip naked in front of the ‘big guys’ (the guards of the centre) while they were searching everywhere, it was humiliating. We are all punished although we didn’t do anything. One guy completely flipped… The workers of the centre no longer want to work here. They are under pressure. I didn’t do anything, it is not fair. Many others were released, not me, why? I am not even able to return to my country.”

The five people are currently in solitary confinement.


The retainees tell us about the lack of hygiene in the centre, they say that the precautions against the virus are not respected.

A man who wants to return to his home:
« I accepted all the return conditions but they keep me! I served my sentence, double sentence in the closed centre, triple sentence with the Coronavirus”.

« It is physical abuse here, but above all mental abuse.”

« They are playing with people, they are wearing us down, I’m losing my head.”

« I want to regain freedom. It is my right. »

« They give us masks but the guards do not wear any. However the risk comes from them who keep coming and going. If there is a case of infection, they will again put the blame on us. »

« We are angry. »

« The centre, I’m not telling you! Disgusting. If the hygiene inspection service came, this centre would be immediately closed down! »

« The situation remains the same, the closed centre is extremely dirty, it is disgusting. We are still 6 people to share a cell. The seats of the TV room are super filthy…»


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