Mr A, detained for several months in several closed centres, has spent 15 days in the secured wing of Vottem. He finally released with an “Order to Leave the Territory without delay”.
Audiotestimony here (Fr)
You are in the secured wing, the ‘green wing’ as they call it in the closed centre of Vottem, ‘a prison within the prison’.
No, it is worse than that Madam, I know prison, in a prison you have several privileges; you may go for a walk with the other detainees, you are alone in your cell, you can’t really feel that you are being watched 24 hours a day.
Every hour, they come to switch on the light
I will tell you how it is like in the cell.
Here in the cell, everything is shielded, even the television is shielded. There is a mirror in one corner, the guards may see where you exactly are through a small booth in the corner. Every evening and every hour at night they switch on the light. Every hour they come and switch on the light, since the very first day. They say “sorry, but it is our job, we must check every hour if you are in your bed or not by switching on the light. We have to watch.’ It is psychologically exhausting, you wake up every hour, you sleep, you wake up, you sleep, you wake up again…
It is just to annoy you. Your cell seems normal but everything is shielded, you have no contact with anyone. Everybody is locked up. The guards walk around with the keys. You can not even feel the air circulating in the cells. Windows are locked with keys too. They only open them a bit in the evening.
Alone with three guards
As for the rest, they ask you if you want to go out for one hour walk. You either say yes or no. But, going out with three guards who are watching you all the time, you don’t want that, you feel like someone dangerous, alone with three guards. Apart from that, they come to bring you food like to anyone else, with a trolley: would you like this or that, you either say yes or no.
Sharing is forbidden here
At 1 p.m. they come and ask you if you want to buy something. If you don’t have money, if you have a friend who wants to send you something, they say that it is sharing and that sharing is forbidden. I have the internal regulations in front of me, I read them, nowhere is sharing mentioned. But if you ask a guard, if you tell him ‘ok, I am undocumented, I don’t have a family here, I don’t have cigaretttes, I don’t have filters. And in another section there is someone, and even my neighbour in the green section who wants to give me something: they tell you ‘No Sir, sharing is forbidden here’. So, I am here in the closed centre, I can not move, I have no contact with anyone, I don’t have money, what can I do??
The guard tells me ‘if you want you can work’. What kind of work? ‘You clean the corridors and we give you one euro’.
So it means that I’ll work for a week in order to be able to pay me a pack of cigarettes with filters! If I want to smoke right now, one of my neighbours can give me a cigarette through the window, we could share. Even in prison it is not forbidden, Madam! No, they refuse. So, only through this they make you feel that you are a very dangerous person.
It is worse than in the prisons of St Gilles or Forest in Brussels. Sharing is not forbidden there. If someone sends you something, the guards check it first and then they give it to you. Here in the centre it is illegal! Why? to make you feel that you are dangerous.
They tell me: ‘We know that you have family outside’. Yes I do, but they don’t have any money! ‘Then you can work for one euro!’.
We’re going to hassle and fluster the guy
They play with your moral, they hassle you to push you to finally do something bad.
They use the people for whom they’ve tried for long to get a plane ticket and for whom they do not manage through the ambassador. So they try their best. They tell themselves that this guy we’re going to hassle him and fluster him so that he signs the papers, until he says Ok I want to leave…’. This cell is the worst, it is worse than a prison, without cigarettes, with nothing… You may ask for anything, the answer is always no.
Like small children…
Sometimes they say that you may go for one hour in the offices where there is a Playstation and a babyfoot. But whom are you going to play with? For one hour you feel handicapped, with a woman wearing a very tight jeans and a tight t-shirt in front of you, and you think you’re going to play Playstation or babyfoot alone? Just like small children… Morally, you can feel they consider you like a small kid. Honestly, since I have been here I did not got out, no walk, nothing, I don’t want to. Because if I do it hurts me even more. I can see the people passing by etc and it hurts me, sometimes I really feel useless.
Sometimes they give you a lighter in your cell, they hand it to you, and this is a real problem.
In the sections where there are 50 persons, there is only one lighter that is underneath the cameras, which means that it is being watched by the guards. No one may go to their cell with a lighter. And here in your cell there is a special lighter for you, why so? well, they hassled you so much, you are so nervous and you have a lighter in your cell, you’re going to burn your mattress and: goal! you are now a dangerous person…
How many people are there in the green wing?
Normally they are 8 people.
One has been there for 7 months. Another one for 3 weeks, another one for one month and a half. I have noticed that there are 3 Tunisians here. They are asking for let passes for Tunisians and it can take 4 or 5 months. That is why they detain them here, to annoy them (to finally have them accepting a ‘voluntary return’).
What I understood is that they want someone to make a big fuss here one day so that they can add in there file that they are dangerous.
I have spent 12 days here and I have had enough. I am starting to have nightmares, I even start to get angry with guards who are nice to me… I feel obliged to speak to myself at night. At 2 a.m. I am still here, the window is closed, I need a cigarette.
For the people here, the situation is really crazy…
I understood that they play with the moral of the people for them to bring chaos here, so that their file says they are dangerous…
other testimony: http://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/about-organised-crime-in-the-closed-centre-of-vottem/