The detainees we are in contact with are demanding their freedom, their rights, proper food and access to medical care. They are protesting against these detentions, against deportations.
They are detained in total precariousness, living all day in groups of about twenty people from different continents/countries together. At night, they are locked in rooms with 2 or 4 beds (except for Bruges with their old 20-bed dormitories). The management selects who can be with whom and does everything to prevent exchanges by placing people who do not speak the same languages in the rooms. In spite of this, solidarity develops.
Protests are sometimes collective, sometimes individual. The management uses all imaginable means to silence them.
In Merksplas, we hear a lot about systematic dunking as soon as a prisoner raises his voice. On August 23, 2022, security came to take a man by force to expel him. Several inmates protest and try to prevent this kidnapping. Rage rises and objects fly; the management calls the police. The robocops arrive in force to put down this rebellion. As a result, 5 prisoners are put in solitary confinement as well as the man who was to be deported. This person was finally taken to the airport the next day at 7am by the police.
In Vottem, the CRACPE (Collectif de Résistance Aux Centres pour Etrangers) informs us:
We had two very determined hunger strikers, total hunger strike, and for the second one thirst strike started. A week apart, the same scenario: we called in an outside doctor because the people were very ill. Both times they took them to the emergency room of the Citadel hospital and released them, just before the visit of the outside doctor! The first one left immediately, the second one really had to be taken care of (thirst strike).
At the Holsbeek detention centre, about twenty women are currently detained and suffering. They often have very difficult backgrounds: some are fleeing a forced marriage, others have been victims of domestic violence, and still others have been victims of human trafficking. Some women are detained after a request for co-habitation or marriage, considered by the Office as a fake marriage in order to obtain papers.
We also regularly learn that women fleeing their country to escape violence linked to their homosexuality are locked up under suspicion by the CGRA and the office of lying and demanding proof of their homosexuality.
In the centres, violence is numerous, racist, institutional and medical. We are currently receiving testimonies about poor medical care and violence from the centre staff. Racist dehumanisation is common, especially when workers address a woman as “You, black woman”.
Words of a visitor who asked that her testimony be published 25/08/2022 :
“At the detention centre she was abused by the nurse who choked her and dragged her, pulling her by the hair, even though she knew she had been diagnosed with cancer. This story tortures me. I fight for rights for all and I hear every day the horrors that are done to these poor people who arrived here by chance. And in these closed centres. How can guards be hired to abuse and terrorise people who know nothing about their rights? How can social workers treat these people in such a way by preventing them from having visits, giving false lawyer numbers and blackmailing them when the detainees refuse to sign documents without knowing what they are about?”
The solidarity between all these women seems to be the strongest. This is what keeps them going in this hell, they tell us.
We also learn a new rule in this centre: in general, the detainees choose their own lawyer. If they cannot afford one, the centre puts them in contact with a pro-deo lawyer, which they can refuse (or change lawyer later). We learn that the Holsbeek centre recently refused to allow detainees to choose their own lawyer!
The appeal is still relevant: APPEAL: We need people to keep these contacts and to denounce these repressive and useless lock-ups. We call on people to join us to publicise these situations, to relay the voices of the detainees in the centres, and to support their struggles.
NO to closed centres. STOP deportations.