Situational analysis of closed centres – November 2020

07/11/2020: Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there haven’t been many new people detained in the centres. Many ‘surprise’ releases randomly took place , without being automatically motivated by court decisions. 
Detainees complain a lot about the non-respect of health prevention measures by the guards.Many people are being placed in confinement cells for silly reasons. Many detainees have been stuck for months, sometimes more than a year, because of the impossibility to deport them since most destination countries refuse to deliver let passes because of Covid-19. Many detainees are asking to be deported because they have had more than enough being retained in closed centres for months. 

A huge number of fathers of Belgian children, recognised or not, are in closed centres. Sometimes they have 2, 3 or 4 children in Belgium. Some have been in Belgium for 20 years and retained for a year.How can children be deprived of their fathers, this is unacceptable […]  I do not want to abandon my 6 years old son!’ 

One detainee rang the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo to ask them to stop delivering let passes to fathers. The embassy answered that they are not aware of the dossiers, and that they get 500€ per let pass. For 500€, you take children away from their fathers?’

Short summary of the situation in each centre: 

Currently, many people from Eastern Europe are being retained and very rapidly deported. A huge solidarity exists among them.

Testimony by one detainee: “there was a Tunisian guy in the room next door. He was super thin, he did not eat, and he fainted at some point. Mohamed called the security, thinking he was dead. The staff of the centre just picked him up and put him back in his bed.’

In the three wings there are around 30 people, often people who were convicted of minor offences. We also notice that they are being fetched at their houses or transferred from prison to the closed centre. 

A social assistant told someone retained for a year in the centre: ‘what are you doing in Belgium? You should go back to your country, there is no place for you here.’  However he has been in Belgium for 20 years and he has a daughter here. He got angry and broke the Plexiglas : 24h of confinement!

On 1 November, 9 detainees started a hunger strike, mainly in bloc 4, to protest against the failure to respect the Covid measures and ask for their release seen the impossibility to deport them. 
Five persons were taken to confinement cells, each time with 10 guards. One man was brought to the hospital. He rang us and shouted « PLEASE HELP US ! »

In Bruges, they are around 20 for the moment. Very few information reach us from that centre. Censorship is rife. “This is not the centre of Bruges, this is Vlaams Belang.” 

One of the detainees had accepted his deportation. He was brought to the airport then back to the centre with no explanation. He was taken to confinement for having “refused” his flight. 

Holsbeek is a closed centre exclusively for women. They are now a dozen inside. Many have been retained for long periods, sometimes more than 6 months. Some of them were arrested at the airport and directly transferred to Holsbeek. Others were retained just at the end of their orange card validity (work permit).

Globally, retention conditions (‘you only eat, go out and sleep’, ‘troubles with the guards’, etc) are extremely anxiety-provoking. Besides, just like in any other centre, the staff members do not respect the health prevention measures with the detainees, which worries them a lot. 

One of the detainees made a proposal: that a corona-infected person went there… ‘This way we will all be released! FREEDOM!

Many of the people in the closed centre in Vottem are double penalties. Most of them come from prison or they were arrested following issues of public order. Obviously, these persons do not understand why they are not released since embassies do not deliver let passes and that there are no or very few flights to their countries of origin. 

One detainee tried to commit suicide and cut his veins. Another also said that some people are not eating. 

As a conclusion, the sanitary crisis has had a huge impact on closed centres. On the one hand, people were released without reason. One may guess that the Belgian State realised that it was not possible to deport them because of the pandemic. On the other hand, we notice that the persons ‘kept’ by the Belgian State often are considered as a threat to public order. 
The people who are currently retained are living in disastrous conditions: isolation, very few contacts with the outside, stress, very few information regarding their ongoing procedures, lies, incomprehension, etc. They are considered as second-class citizens and their rights are violated. 

Again and again we claim

No Borders!

Let’s burn the closed centres!


Call for phone recharges for retainees in the closed centres 

We are currently overloaded with requests for phone recharges from people retained in closed centres. You can support them by buying 5 or 10 euros Lycamobile recharges at your grocery shop,  night shop or bookshop.  You just have to send us the pin code that is written on the recharge to our email gettingthevoiceout(a) or by SMS on our mobile number 0032(0)484026781. We will then send the code to the retainees who asked for a recharge and enable them to keep in touch with us and the outside world. I

If it is easier for you, you may also pay 5, 10, 20 euros or more (!) or even better make a standing order on the following bank account: Collectif Contre Les Expulsions

Banque Triodos BE58 5230 8016 1279 BIC: TRIOBEBB

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