Suicide at the 127bis detention centre: the inmates alert us in shock


The inmates of the 127bis detention centre (in Steenokkerzeel, close to Zaventem airport) have informed us that a man in his thirties, Mr A., took his own life on Saturday 9 March 2024.

The man was of Ethiopian origin and had been in Belgium for 12 years. He had been locked up in the centre for around ten days. According to his fellow inmates, he wanted to return to his country of origin, and went to the police to request a voluntary return to Ethiopia. He was arrested at the police station following his request, and locked up in the 127bis centre.

A. was discovered by a fellow inmate at 5am in the toilets. The centre management went round the various wings of the building to confirm that the man had died by hanging, and to ask the inmates to “remain calm out of respect for the deceased”. The inmate who discovered the body has now apparently been transferred to another centre against his will. His fellow inmates describe A. as a man who was “happy and sad at the same time”. They added that, although A. did not seem to have expressed any suicidal thoughts, his mental state was worrying: his fellow inmates confirmed that he was receiving a lot of medication in the centre, and that he did not seem to be in his normal state, and was trembling all the time.

The detainees alerted us, expressing their distrust of the centre’s staff and the climate of repression and daily violence that reigns there. They are calling for the case to be publicised and for an investigation to be opened.

This death sadly echoes the two deaths that occurred last year at the Merksplas closed centre, with the suicide of a man on 25 December last year1 and the death of Tamazi2 a year ago, in February 2023. These suicide attempts and other self-aggressive behaviour are direct consequences of the confinement and detention conditions suffered by undocumented migrants held in the centres. Detention centres plunge detainees into a hostile climate, producing daily violence that must be taken into account in understanding these tragedies. 

Our thoughts are with A.’s family and fellow detainees.

#NoBorder #FreedomForAll

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