Testimonies : Living conditions in detention centres.

Numerous testimonies have been received from the centres relating the violence of the staff and the inhumane conditions of detention. 
As a reminder, the objective of the detention centres is to place undocumented persons in detention in order to expel them from Belgian territory. 
The functioning of a detention centre is similar to the functioning of a prison. 
Our objective is to denounce the very existence of these centres. We are regularly in contact with detainees who are living serious violations of their fundamental rights, isolated from the rest of the world. 
Below, we have thematically grouped several testimonies related to the daily life in closed centres: 
Medical service 
Each centre has a medical service to which detainees can refer for treatment. The theory is very far from the practice. Very regularly, we receive testimonies from people who are refused care, or whose medical problems are treated in a superficial manner. 
Very few infrastructures take into account the issue of mental health. 
For example, people recently told us: 
“You ask for care : paracetamol. You are in pain: paracetamol. Paracetamol for everything and for nothing”. 
“You have psychological problems, you’re nervous : painkiller or they offer you an injection”. 
 “When we talk to the director about medical follow-up, he says he has nothing to do with it… If he is the director, he has something to do with it, that’s not normal”
Dialogue with staff 
Detainees also reported having difficult contacts with staff members. They give very little consideration to their requests, and these rarely result in positive responses.  As soon as they dare to stand up for their rights or ask for some dignity, they are directly punished or put in an isolated cell for many hours. 
 “As soon as you raise a rule or want to propose something, you get a “warning” or a 24-hour lock-up.                                     
“We talk to a wall, our word is not taken into consideration… It goes in one way and out the other”. 
Detainees also told us that staff members are openly racist in their words, behaviour and attitudes… 
“There are big racists among the staff”. 
“A guard from the extreme right, super racist. He doesn’t deserve to work here, even if you are racist, you keep your racism out. Your racism you keep to yourself. You don’t belong here with your racism. We are humans not animals, even if we are illegal”. 
 “They keep us here like animals, you live here for years and then they lock you up in a prison because you are a foreigner”. 
 “I don’t understand, we are human beings, we have children, parents…”.
 “The social workers don’t know anything, not even a hello. And everything is in Flemish. We don’t understand anything”. 
Complaints about the quality and quantity of food are also very frequent. 
“In the morning 7.15am : the door is opened for “breakfast”: a slice of bread
At noon : potatoes with a semblance of sauce
In the evening at 6pm : a sandwich. And if you ask for more, they throw what’s left in front of your eyes into the bin with a big smile. 
Access to a lawyer 
Every person who arrives in a detention centre has the legal right to be defended by a lawyer, either through legal aid or privately. Generally, lawyers appointed by the legal aid office are involved in the defence of detainees. 
This is a type of litigation where detainees often feel helpless, as they have very little response from the people who advise them. 
They feel abandoned in a legal labyrinth that they do not understand. Moreover, they are not helped by the centre’s staff who focus on their eviction. 
“My lawyer never answers the phone even though I gave him money for my asylum application and appeal. He has his money, and I will have my deportation ticket”. 
The circumstances  push people to the limit and they sometimes lose all hope:
“Some people cut themselves, some swallow blades, lighters, batteries or go on hunger strike”. 
They extend our detention by 2 months to 2 months… until when? Some have been here for more than a year. 
“Some are going crazy.                                   
“I don’t understand. It’s better to die”. 
“I was working before I came here. Now who will feed my family, my children?
“Some people let themselves be deported after 9 or 10 months to a country they don’t know because they are fed up with being locked up. 

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