News from the centres / The big cleanup

Imprisonments, deportations, flights with escorts. The rejection of populations who flee tragic situations in their countries and who would like to share the ‘democratic’ system of our developed countries is in full swing.

The leaders of our Fortress Europe will do everything they can to prevent the ‘invasion’ of immigrants on the European territory and to get rid of those who dared to try their luck.

This mode of repression is even being acted out to other countries (and not necessarily the country of origin), notably through agreements for the taking back of these people with these countries without caring about the welcome by these countries, nor about the future of the deported. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is the motto for these agreements.

To make this amok public and foster reactions, we gather testimonies and answer the calls for assistance during deportation attempts. Some try to help juridically, others visit, other denounce, and other act…

We will continue to fight this amok. We call for mobilisation to make the opinion aware of the consequences of these migration policies, to continue supporting the struggle of all these detained persons. We call for the creation of new means to stop these policies of repression, taking back and extermination, fighting against all the links of this lethal chain.

The following ‘news in brief’ have been gathered thanks to the unbreakable solidarity of the people detained or deported.


  • Agreements between the Foreigners Office and airline(s):

We have learnt that the Foreigners Office have signed a contract with KLM: they will have 6 seats booked every day on the first  Brussels-Schiphol flight!

  • Forced deportations under escort:

For several months we have noticed that from the second deportation attempt, the person who is going to be deported is accompanied by an escort. From three to seven policemen escort people several times a day to a far away country. For some, an ‘enlarged’ escort is organised. Knowing that this escort makes the return flight each time, one may question the budget that is allocated to this forced returns.

  • Violent deportation attempts:

We were able to gather testimonies of deportation attempts under escort that were extremely violent.

A Congolese man deported to Kinshasa got there with fractured ankles. The Congolese community mobilised to prevent this deportation and was present at the airport during one of these deportation attempts. Testimony

An Iranian man went through a very harsh first deportation attempt. He was brought back to the centre of Merksplas in a serious state. His co-detainees were ready to testify about his state but everything was done to prevent them doing so: the man was very rapidly isolated and deported again two days later. Testimony

This is only the visible part of the iceberg. How many others suffer the same fate? All these deportations happen secretly, under the nose of associations, policy makers, and NGOs who do not seem to have the least idea of “how to intervene”. Their silence is sometimes very equivocal to us.

  • Deportations to the country of transit:

For several months, the Foreigners Office have taken the habit of making their life easier: rather than taking the necessary steps to deport the immigration candidates to their country of origin (passport, let pass), they put them on a flight of the same airline that brought them here, to the country of transit of their immigration journey (referring to the Chicago Convention of 1944). Hence, the deported people find themselves in unknown countries where their welcome is more than shady. Fore e.g: a Congolese deported to Morocco, a Cameroonian to Benin or Algeria, the most extreme case being of a young Malian deported to China! Deportation alert

  • Deportations to countries at war:

Several Afghan people have been deported to Afghanistan, others are still in detetention centres, waiting for their deportation. These deportations are currently being discussed in the media and the political world. These deportations to unstable countries do not only concern Afghanistan. Other deportations of political opponents are sometimes orgnaised to other unstable countries (Somalia, Congo, Guinea, Iran, etc.). Once again, the Foreigners Office only rarely take the situation of the person and the country of deportation into account.

  • Secured flights:

According to testimonies gathered, at least one grouped and secured flight  is being organised per month by the Foreigners Office in collaboration with our army: Congo and Guinea seem to be the privileged countries for Beglium.

On June 26, a secured flight was organised with 4 Guineans, 3 Senegalese and 26 police officers on board. They had stops in Niger, in Conakry and Dakar. All of the 26 police men made the return flight! There was no physical violence but the oral violence was tough, according to one of the Guineans.

  •  Forced voluntary returns: 

After several months of detention in the centre and after deportation threats or attempts, some give up and accept their return; exhausted by this constant harrassment by the Office. This is what we call a forced voluntary return.

A young Beninese was arrested at the airport and after requesting asylum he got detained in the Centre Caricole and then in Vottem. After several days of hunger strike to claim for an exhaustive treatment of his asylum request and after several deportation attempts he ended up accepting his return. In spite of this voluntary return, he was accompanied by an escort to Benin. Call for mobilisation for his first deportation attempt: Deportation alert.


  • The new centre «caricole»: we are witnessing new ‘accelerated’ procedures for asylum requests: 

We have had regular contacts with people detained in Caricole. Most of them have been arrested at the airport during their asylum request. As from their presence in this new ‘modern’ centre, around 20 people started a hunger strike to claim for a fair treatment of their asylum request. They had noticed that their files were only superficially analysed and that the treatment of their asylum request was random, a real lottery. A huge solidarity movement had grown in this centre. Since then, the majority of them have been deported and others have been transferred to other centres.

  • Good to know for those who are still confident: the Constitutional Court partially cancelled the accelerated asylum request procedure 12/07/2012 – La libre


  • New general search at 127bis : like each month, the prisoners were searched thoroughly. Then they had to go to the courtyard of the centre for several hours when their bedrooms were searched.
  • Regular threats of them being put in isolation cells, on secured flights, or of forced deportation: a short film is shown to the candidates, explaining how a forced return happens (the one who can get hold of this film is more than welcome!).
  • Isolation cell: some people are put in isolation cells every day because they disobeyed, they were recalcitrant or because they showed their will to commit suicide! They can stay in isolation cells for several days, sometimes more than ten days!
  • Suicide attempts: several suicide attempts were reported to us. Codetainees are deeply moved by these acts of despair. In general, the person who tried to commit suicide is brought to the hospital, then put in an isolation cell in the centre upon his/her return.
  • Detention of pregnant women:

It is very frequent that pregnant women are detained in the centres. At present, a Cameroonian woman arrested at the airport was detained in Caricole and now is in the 127bis centre. After refusing a forced marriage she was banished by her family and fled through Benin. She already was the subject of several deportation attempts or threats of deportation to Benin, her country of transit. She is extremely anxious and her pregnancy is therefore very difficult.



Four months of detention centre, deportation with escort, and split up reconstituted family 

They are 45 and 52 years old, they were living the love of their lives. They introduced a marriage request that got refused. N got arrested in the context of this marriage request at the commune for suspicion of marriage of convenience. He spent four months in the detention centre of Merksplas. His lover was going to visit him very regularly, and they had the right to spend two hours per month in an isolation cell for more intimate contacts!!! Testimony

After several appeals and a lot of suffering for his future wife and his children, N ‘accepted’ his forced return under escort. This is not that dramatic; the couple will find another solution to make their dream come true, but was it that useful and necessary to persist and get stuck on a love affair? And how many love affairs are flouted this way? 


 An Iranian family was the subject of a determination beyond understanding: the man was deported after several extremely violent deportation attempts. Testimony

The Office continue their hard liner determination on his wife and son. A petition is gathering signatures to protest against this harassment. It is still ongoing : Sign it and spread it:


A coloured French man had lost his papers: he wanted to declare the loss of them in a police station in Brussels, he was detained in the centre of Merksplas during 15 days and then deported to his country of origin: France! 

Text messages Testimonies from the detention centres

“Here you can find a melting pot of everything: you can find mad people, sick people, delinquents and very kind people like me. I am a nice person, but my kindness has limits!” 

“Liberty is a precious thing that was taken away from me.” 

“Everybody is sad here, no liberty, only two hors in a courtyard to see the sky for a while; people are starting to crack up…we are being treated like criminals, like dirty things, we have no dignity, not even the right to have dignity… and the Belgian politicians are aware of what is going on in Congo like everywhere else, like here!!! We just have the right to leave the country, thanks a million!” 

“They are taking me now to the airport”

“I was put in a prison here in Vottem so I will pass the night and go to the airport this morning , but at midnight I tried to kill myself but the security came for my rescue. They cut the rope and took me in another room with camera and they never even gave me any tablet and I have pain all over my neck.”

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