20 February 2011 – testimony of a man who has been released from detention centre 127bis after 5 months of detention – He had testified a first time when he still was in detention centre – Listen to his first interview : He beat me in the neck and broke my teeth
How long were you in the centre for?
I was in the detention centre for five months.
So you were there for five months despite the legal limit for keeping someone in detention being two. Do you know why you were detained for so long?
When I arrived in Belgium on 29 August I didn’t know that I would be stopped at the airport. When I claimed asylum they brought me to the detention centre. They tried to deport me at the airport in September but I refused to get on the plane. After that they moved me to the Bruges centre, where I stayed for a few months. They tried to deport me again on the 20 November. They threatened me: the police hit me and broke two of my teeth.
Listen to the testimony (FR) :
So it was the people who tried to deport you who were violent?
Yes it was them.
Did they punch or kick you?
When they first came to get me to make me leave I was so terrified and worried. I was so scared that I pooed myself. They told me that because I had done that they were going to treat me like an animal. So they started hitting me hard. I fell to the ground and they handcuffed my feet. When they tried to handcuff my hands and I resisted, one of them stamped on my neck. My face hit the ground and that’s when my two teeth broke.
How long did it take before you received dental treatment to repair the teeth?
It took two weeks.
And were you able to complain about how the Immigration Office has treated you?
Three days later on the 23 November I complained to the P Committee. A month later the P Committee told me that they couldn’t do anything as my situation was a judicial matter. The sent my case to the judge and told me that the Senior Crown prosecutor would make the judgment. Since then I haven’t heard anything about it, nothing at all, no one has called me…
While you were there were other people also subjected to violence during their deportations?
Yes. There was a Congolese man who was handled violently while being deported at the airport. They broke his neck. When he came back to the centre the P Committee passed his case on to the courts, then it was passed on to the tribunal. On the day of his hearing he was deported. That’s how he went back.
They deported him before he got to go to court?
So he wouldn’t get to talk about his experiences?
Yes. And there was a young girl too who was also violently handled. She was sent back to Congo with a wound in her back.
What is life like in the detention centres?
It’s really another world in the centre. I don’t really know how to explain it…we are like dogs or sheep. They tell us to “do this, do that”. When we can use our phones and when we can go to bed. You never get out, you are locked up. At 7am when you have just woken up you have breakfast and then you go outside for an hour. After the outside hour you go back inside. No one goes to bed until 10pm. When you go up to bed they take away your phone. It’s very difficult.
While you were in the centre did you see lots of people get deported?
Yes, lots of people. There is little hope. For example out of 20 people, only 4 are likely to get out and the rest will be deported.
And do you know why you were kept in detention then?
Releasing me and giving me papers would acknowledge that how they treated me was wrong. Maybe that is why they have given me an order to leave Belgian territory. They have no right to hit me and to break my teeth. It is against my human rights to do that. I think that is why they released me from the centre.
So they let you out of the detention centre but you don’t have leave to remain here, you have an order to leave the country so if you don’t leave you won’t have your papers…
Yes that’s right.
And how are things going?
How can I live without papers? I am suffering and I have to get used to false teeth in my mouth. The new canines they put in hurt me a lot. I even find it difficult to chew and eat certain foods. Even eating an apple hurts my mouth. I am suffering. I have bouts of madness, sometimes when I am talking to people I can’t hear them anymore. I start dreaming and people ask me why I am dreaming so much and I don’t understand, I don’t understand anything. I tell them “I’m not dreaming I’m here!”
And you didn’t experience anything like that before being in detention? It was the detention centre that provoked that?
No nothing like that before.
When you arrived you were taken straight from the plane to the detention centre. What did you think when you got on the plane to come here? Did you think that everything would be ok and that when you arrived you would be able to claim political asylum?
No because Belgium wasn’t my destination. I was heading to France but when I arrived here they stopped me. As I couldn’t claim asylum in France as I had planned I claimed asylum here when they stopped me.
But did you have any idea that detention centres like that existed and that there was a likelihood you would experience such violence?
No I had no idea… I had no idea it was like that. I thought that in ‘white Europe’ things were civilised and that there were human rights, I thought when you arrived and claimed asylum they would put you at ease and do some research into your case. That’s how I thought. I didn’t even think there were such things as detention centres. And I assure you that detention centres are prisons, they are undeniably prisons.