15 March 2011: Telephone interview with a man of Pakistani origin, detained at the Merksplas detention centre.
Listen to the interview (ENG) :[audio:http://gettingthevoiceout.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/only-for-7-euros.mp3|titles=only-for-7-euros]
I am speaking to you from the Vottem centre. I have been here for 20 days.
There were around 130 of us living in Brussels. In 2009 we applied for our papers, according to the law.
We submitted our work contracts (as requested). Most of the people fell under category 2.8B, which states that you must have a work contract here with a minimum salary of 1380 euros. So we provided the contracts. Some people have higher salaries, for example 1400 euros…
– You all have the promise of work contracts?
No, we don’t have promises, we have the work contracts! So, we handed in these contracts along with our applications. We submitted it to the foreign office (L’office des étrangers).
After more than 10 months I received a negative answer just because my salary was 7 euros less than the amount they asked for. So right now in this detention centre there are around 4 or 5 people who got the same negative response for the same reason. They refused us for 7 euros!
– Only for 7 euros?
Yes, it is not understandable. It is an inhuman policy.
So after having all these problems, and because a lot of my friends hadn’t received their decision, we got together to occupy a place in Anderlecht and protest against this inhuman policy.
On 17 February we demonstrated in front of the Minister for Immigration’s office, Mr Whatelet. Four people were received in the office and they submitted a list of all the people who were staying there with us.
But the administration took a very inhumane decision so we started a 6-day hunger strike. The police came and brutally took us out of the place and we were sent to detention centres. 10 people are here at Vottem, and 7 people are at Bruges.
We appealed against this imprisonment. Only one person was released and literally all the people who went to the court got a positive decision, but the ministry appealed against this decision so we are all inside once again and we are facing severe punishment. This kind ofimprisonment is not bearable.
– How long have you been in the detention centre?
Since 24 February, so it 20 days now.
– How is it inside?
You can understand that prison is prison. It cannot be a house. Even if they feed us with a golden spoon we cannot bear it! We are not feeling well in here. We are asking for help from all the people who support humanity. We even submitted new applications with new work contracts with higher salaries.
I have got a new contract worth 1444 euros. I gave it to my lawyer and he has submitted it to the Ministry, but I still don’t have an answer.
Right now I am just waiting for my deportation but I don’t know what will happen.
– Do you think they are going to deport you?
Yes they have sent us here to be deported.
– Do you think it is because you started a hunger strike that they are so against you?
Yes, because we only demonstrated for our right to work here. We submitted the work contracts, and we have been waiting for a year! When are we going to be allowed to start working? It is not easy to say here illegally without any work!
– And psychologically how do you feel?
Very bad. It is a deportation centre and we are always scared of being deported. What am I going to think about the justice system in Belgium or about human rights if I am deported just for 7 euros! What kind of image will I keep? For example, for the last 20 days I have been here, it costs 100 euros daily to keep me here, to keep me inside. And on the outside it is only about 7 euros!
– Is there anything you would like to say about detention centres?
It is unbearable here. It is a prison! You know we are illegal and we have been in Europe for the last 4 or 5 years, before we were already stressed and here there is too much stress, it is a very tough life here.
On 21 April, this man called us. He was in Italy with instructions to leave the country within five days. After two months spent in detention in Belgium, they deported him to the next European country where there was evidence of his presence in the country. He managed to resist his first deportation but the next time the pressure was too much and he was deported.
Today, around 10 of his friends are still in detention in Belgium. The foreign office has just extended their detention by two months.