Theo Francken and the Foreigners Office announced the opening of 3 new closed centres where men and women will be ‘administratively’ locked down, with the congratulations of the different parties that manage the residence and migration of foreigners with a strong hand.
In the context of these migration policies, the organisation of the confinement in closed centres reflects well these policies with a series of intimidations, violence, even torture by the staff of the centres.
At the Caricole closed centre close to the Zaventem Brussels National airport are mainly confined people who were arrested at our borders when requesting asylum to Belgium, as well as people who would not be aministratively in order to enter the territory and whom the Foreigners Office tries to have deported to their country of origin by the responsible airline .
The Caricole closed centre was inaugurated on 29 April 2012.
A few speeches on this occasion :
“The Caricole centre aims at humanely retaining foreigners and repatriating them the soonest possible to their country of origin or granting them access to the territory when the legislation allows for it’, explained Maggie De Block.
“The aim in the building is, on the one hand, to create as much as possible a climate of security and conviviality, and on the other hand a certain freedom of movement’ asserted the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration.
The Director general of the Foreigners Office, Freddy Roosemont also present at the inauguration, refused to compare the centre with a prison. ‘There is space and there is light, we did everything to make their stay as pleasant as possible’ he explained.
Little note by the associations:
No retention, of anyone, can be accepted. Prisons, closed centres are places that were built to exclude the others, those whom our leaders do not give (anymore) the right to participate in their type of society.
In the Caricole closed centre, announced as a golden prison, ‘human’, secure’, ‘convivial’, ‘with a certain freedom of movement’, the retainees are not happy and they express it after several events that happened the last months!
On 04/05/2017 the so-called « residents » have been shocked by the extremely violent arrest by the federal police in the centre of a man from Sierra Leone in view of his deportation. http://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/deportation-attempt-urgent/
On 05/05/2017 the visit of parliamentarians during the Steenrock festival was badly perceived by some residents seen the lack of really efficient actions from our government.
On 11/05/2017 three retainees escaped from the centre. Two were caught by the police the day after, the third one is still running free. The residents were deeply moved by the courage of the escapees.
After these multiple events, the retainees are confronted with a lot of pressure.
After the escape, the freedom of movement within the centre was restricted during several days and the vigilance of the guards is omnipresent. They are trying to convince the retainees that the escapee of 11/05/2017 who kept a lot of contacts with the retainees is radicalised, that he is a terrorist and that he is extremely dangerous.
For 2 months they have not had internet connection; which strongly reduces the access to the documents and information necessary for the introduction of their asylum requests and also the contacts with their friends and families.
Mobile phones are progressively cut by the providers. The centre management refuses the use of phones from the centre, and nothing has been foreseen to allow the calls essential for the retainees to their lawyers, families, associations, etc.
The people arriving at the centre generally do not have any lawyer to introduce their appeal against their arrest or their deportation. The social assistants of the centre are obliged to appoint a lawyer generally pro deo. We notice that most of the lawyers appointed by the social assistants are currently totally incompetent and absent, which the social assistants pertinently know.
The documents they have to sign are in Dutch which very few retainees can understand.
From the medical point of view, the health care is almost non existent or not adapted to the pathology of the ‘resident’. It is the unqualified staff (no need of a degree to apply there) who distribute the pills without supervision by a doctor.
The staff of the centre doesn’t miss an occasion to put pressure on the retainees, using the same strategies than the Foreigners office. They promise violence if they refuse a deportation, arrests in their country of origin, etc. They dissuade them to ring their external contacts, to spread their messages, warning them that they daily read the articles published on the website gettingthevoiceout and that they know everything.
A few live testimonies
“Still no internet at the centre, it’s awfully long… impossible to search for information’.
“A lot of phones have been cut here. When people ask to make a phone call in the office, they say no. So we try to arrange ourselves among us but it is not easy.’
Pressure and intimidation by the staff
“They tell everybody that the fugitive, the one they could not catch, is radicalised, that he is a terrorist and that he is extremely dangerous.’
“Last Thursday, two men and a woman visited the centre, the bedrooms, the shower rooms etc. They were accompanied by the director and she was showing everything. One can say that there was almost no contact with the retainees, they avoided me for sure.’
“Every day, the staff of the centre watch the page gettingthevoiceout before they start working. Even the director does that, they decided that recently.’
“People don’t understand antyhing anymore here. They get their documents in Dutch, however their lawyer doesn’t speak that language either, so why are they doing that?’
« A lot of rumors circulate here on the associations that are working for the Foreigners Office, in the centre they tell me that I am in danger when I communicate with you.’
“I gave 900 euros to the former lawyer and she didn’t react. The new lawyer is ok but when she got the file it was already too late, nothing had been done, it hurt me, it hurt me so much.”
“I keep trying to ring the lawyer but in vain. We are in a total state of panic, we are really in need of help’.
“He asked me for 100 EUR but he still hasn’t done anything.’
Another woman had a crisis. ‘She fell today, she was lying on the ground, her eyes closed, she didn’t move anymore. People ran from everywhere, she was brought to the nursery where she will spend the night. We all gathered and showed our dissatisfaction to the guards, we told them it was really bullshit, that she ought to be driven to the hospital, that there was no doctor during the week-end. We were told to speak to the director on Monday morning”.
“Here a lady is not feeling well, her eyes are red, she can’t open them anymore, and she has headaches too. They just give her ointment, it doesn’t help at all!’
” When people are feeling sick here, they tell them to go and take a shower to feel better… what is this?’
« A woman asked to see a doctor. The day after, she asked again for medical help because she could not get rid of her pains. They just shook her and asked her to stop pretending. ‘
One retainee told us ‘we do not have the right to be sick. It really shocked and hurt me that they feel we are pretending. You have to die first to have them believe that you are sick. We are stones for them, not human beings.’
CGRA and the Foreigners Office
“The whole argumentation is to question the reliability of the documents and testimonies… it is hard. They are always looking for contradiction, they say the evidence are not valid, but where are the criteria, they do not give any reason or explanation.’
“It is always ther same when there are relevant elements they accelerate deportations’.
“This morning at 8.30 a.m. they came to my room. They asked again if I wanted to introduce a new asylum request, they put pressure on me. I think they want me to get a negative answer and put pressure on the embassy to give me a let pass because they don’t have any!’
“Tickets are being distributed to everybody here, it is like a slot machine!’
“They don’t want people to know what is going on here, that is why we do not have phones with cameras! But what is going on here is absolutely crazy! For example, yesterday two people slept in the corridor with just one blanket!’
Visit of parliamentarians and Steenrock Festival
A women was prevented from seeing the parliamentarians because she is not well at all, it seems that her case was hidden. ‘The guards followed her during the whole afternoon, they control every single step she takes.’
“The parliamentarians saw more or less 17 people I think, the guards never left them, but they could film a bit on the sly with their mobiles.’
“I gave my phone number, he said he would look at article and ring me back. I am still waiting for his call’
“We could not see nor hear anything from the event, and they had also cancelled the visits.’