Hunger strike at the 127 bis detention centre in Steenokkerzeel


20 April 2024

‘Against food, for freedom’.

‘Do you know how much we’re costing you? For nothing!’

The inmates of detention centre 127bis (Steenokkerzeel) have informed us that a general hunger strike has been called for Tuesday 14 May 2024 in the L1 wing of the prison building. The strike was launched in protest at the poor conditions of detention, particularly in relation to the meals distributed in the centre, which the inmates describe as very poor in quality and quantity. 

Such complaints about food are extremely frequent. The detention conditions maintained by the authorities, led by the Aliens Office, clearly demonstrate the contempt they have for the detainees. The deplorable state of these conditions concerns the food, but also extends to the entire detention system: access to healthcare is extremely limited, daily autonomy is increasingly restricted, and there are many accounts of latent racism on the part of staff¹, etc. 

“We have no rights.”

“No respect from the guards. They provoke us. No humanity.”

“We are afraid of them.”

But this is not the only reason for the strike. A number of inmates are also complaining about being left in the dark about their administrative situation. Detainees have no way of knowing whether they have been sentenced (without any kind of judgement and for purely administrative reasons, let’s not forget) to stay in detention for days, weeks or months. Detainees do not know whether they will eventually be released, in most cases with an Order to Leave the Territory, or whether they will be forcibly deported. This uncertainty is particularly difficult to live with and a source of anxiety.

“Some people ask for voluntary return. And they have no news.”

“Many have children here [in Belgium]. They don’t give a damn.”

Through this hunger strike, the detainees are expressing their more than legitimate anger at the entire system that locks them up. They are calling for their messages to be echoed outside: let’s relay them, let’s talk about them around us, let’s exert pressure in every possible way to support their struggle.

The movement has now ended after several days of protest. 

We express our solidarity with all those locked up. 

#Stop detention centres!

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