On the outside, huge barriers, fences as far as your eyes can see, doorphones every 3 meters, windows padlocked with crews. In the inside, innocent people who were born with the wrong documents or in the wrong country. The entrance to the closed centre would discourage many. Idyllic vision of a State that want their migration policy to be repressive, inhuman and conditioned by fear. Retainees call it “the soft prison” or “the advanced Guantanamo”, it varies. But it is really about prison conditions: “Here we are locked in the room between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., we can not touch the windows otherwise the alarm is triggered, there is no switch; it is them who decide when lights must be switched off, it is hard.”
Whereas the migration policies are more and more authoritarian and exclusive, at the centre the departure tickets multiply, return trips to the airport do not end, it is the evictions’ waltz. Although they all have the same common barriers; the ones of the centre, the retainees each have a singular story: from political persecutions to forced marriage or homosexuality; the stories are countless.
B. was arrested in Zaventem. However, he didn’t really want to settle in Belgium. Originally from Togo, he was in transit at Zaventem airport to flee the persecutions he was going through in his home country. His offence? His sexual orientation. B. is gay. In Togo he could be sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. “For my country’s authorities, it is an evil spirit that hosts a person, and in order to get rid of it, it has to be beaten up or imprisoned.” B. was not sent to prison in Togo but in a military camp where he had to spend 3 months, 3 months of imprisonment and torture.
Therefore, he had come to Belgium to seek for protection. As an answer he already got his first eviction ticket. The CGRA do not believe in his homosexuality. “The Office of the General Commissionner points out that you were not able to convince them” they said during the appeal procedure. If one could reverse the exercise, how would you prove your heterosexuality? While gender stereotypes still are deeply rooted in all spheres of the Belgian society, the exercise seems hazardous, even dangerous. Today he has been retained in the centre for 3 months; a period of waiting, stress and anxiety that particularly affects him.
“I prefer to die in prison in Belgium than having to go back to Togo.”
“If they deport me to Togo, it is the same as if they were bringing an animal to the slaughterhouse.”
Whether he is gay or not, it is not as much the veracity of his statements that is to be questioned but rather the existence of a State structure that imprisons, handcuffs and gags men, women and even children for the simple reason that they believed Europe was a place of “human rights”.