Persecuting guard at 127bis detention centre acts with impunity

“One staff member in particular creates a climate of terror on a daily basis, followed by other guards. Some inmates are very afraid of this guard and try to avoid him as much as possible by hiding.”

For more than a month, inmates at the 127 bis detention centre have been alerting us about particularly harassing and violent members of staff. We had already alerted the associations working in the centres to this situation. 

The following information was reported to us on the 5th of April 2024:

During Ramadan, detainees were allocated to one or other wing of the centre depending on whether or not they were fasting. The R wing was normally the “non-Ramadan wing”, although it did contain some detainees who fasted during the day. These people therefore kept their day’s food in their rooms to eat in the evening. We were told that the guard in question had on several occasions forbidden prisoners to eat at iftar time, and had thrown the food of a detained person the bin right in front of her.

“He chooses his targets and certain inmates are particularly targeted: insults, blackmail, threats, complaints”. 

Some inmates no longer dare leave their rooms for fear of running into him. According to his fellow inmates, one prisoner is particularly targeted. We are told that the Ethiopian detainee, who died on the 9th of March1, had also been targeted.

Again, on the 28 of April 2024, various inmates told us that during discussions between inmates, a particular guard, followed by other guards, intervened in a muscular manner, assaulting the detainees involved. They called for reinforcements and 15 security men worked hard to force several inmates into solitary confinement, some of them solely because they were trying to prevent the violent intervention of the guards.

“They tackled a detainee to the ground, other detainees were around shouting not to hit, then security arrived to put some of them in isolation cells.”

“In the isolation cells this notorious guard laughs and plays hard rock music while banging on the table.”

“When we tell him something he laughs in our faces.”

Complaints saga

A letter of complaint addressed to the centre’s management was filed by several detainees against these guards. Some time later, one of the guards approached the signatories and asked them, again violently, why they had signed the complaint. We find it highly problematic that the guard in question had access to the names of the people who had filed the complaint against him.In response, the guards in turn lodged complaints against certain prisoners. This process is common, and can also be observed when complaints are lodged against the police: those in positions of public authority take advantage of the legal arsenal, which inevitably works in their favour, in order to burden their victims and make them feel guilty.

Parliamentary questions 31 January 2024

Parliamentary questions on the situation in the 127bis and Merksplas closed centres were put to Nicole de Moor in the Home Affairs Committee on 31/01/2024. In response, the Secretary of State made the following comments: “With regard to the situation at 127bis, several recent incidents involving members of the centre’s staff have been brought to my attention. These incidents are being investigated. Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated by the Aliens Office and I will ensure that these incidents are not ignored if they are confirmed by the investigation”. We have no way of knowing whether the disciplinary procedure concerns the guard referred to in the detainees’ accounts.

The prisoners tell us:

“How is it possible that such a racist, perverted man works here?”

“Other guards don’t agree with this way of doing things. You can sense that there are underlying conflicts between them.”

“We have to do something. Not for me, but for the others who will follow”.

The laxity shown by the management and the Migration’s Office towards this atrociously violent guard (and his followers) is disturbing but not surprising. Despite recurring reports from detainees denouncing abuses of all kinds over a long period of time, a climate of almost total impunity reigns behind the gates of closed centres.

1 See the article published in March on this subject: https://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/suicide-au-centre-ferme-127bis-les-detenus-sous-le-choc-nous-alertent/

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