News from the closed centres (from 20 February 2023 to 5 March 2023) 

Closed centre Merksplas. Several detainees reported that they were subjected to racism, especially by the “return assistants”. 
– Many people under Dublin regulation have been deported within 5 days of their arrest without being able to notify their relatives or a lawyer. The Dublin Regulation is a European regulation which establishes which country is responsible for examining a person’s asylum application within the European Union. One of the criteria for determining which country is responsible is the first country of entry into the EU. 
– Four women and four men with whom we had contact were deported to Croatia, the country  were supposed to apply for asylum according to the Dublin Regulation. These people have passed through Croatia and have experienced a lot of violence there. Indeed, Croatia is known for its very violent treatment (torture, sexual assaults, etc.) of people in a migration situation and has already been condemned on several occasions by the European Court of Human Rights for this. Numerous international reports have also condemned the abusive practices of the Croatian state, such as police violence and collective refoulements. (1) Despite this, the Belgian state considers Croatia to be a safe country. 
Closed centre Merksplas and 127 bis. It is increasingly difficult to access a telephone in some centres.  For most detainees, the telephone is the only means of contact with the outside world. Telephones are usually provided by the centre, either for a fee or free of charge. Currently, telephones are becoming increasingly rare. Inmates therefore share a telephone with others. 
Closed centre Bruges. 26 women are currently detained in the centre. While we were not aware of any women being detained in Bruges, it seems that the situation is changing.
Several people report that they have been arrested at their place of work (Horeca, construction sites). These workplaces are regularly the target of identity checks.
Numerous expulsions to Algeria have taken place. Detainees tell us that deportations are systematically carried out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  
Closed centre Merksplas. A detainee in a critical state of health. He told us that he had an open wound on his leg and that he had only received paracetamol.  In general, many detainees report being in a very precarious psychological state. 
Closed centre 127bis. Protest movement following the discovery of a positive covid case. The detainees are concerned about the health measures taken following the discovery of this case. In response, the director of the centre told them that they could not have access to masks for several days and that they should not worry.
– Several detainees report being pressured to accept voluntary returns. 
(1) (Report to the Croatian Government on the visit to Croatia carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, from 10 to 14 August 2020,; Recommendation of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, “Pushed Beyond the Limits”, March 2022, ).
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