Here we are. Deconfinement is ongoing, the deportation machine restarted: inside the closed centres, plane tickets are falling. Anxiety and panic got hold of the retainees.
Michelle has been retained for 7 months now. Seven months of fear, tension and uncertainty leading to a huge psychological distress. Michelle left her country after being the victim of gender violence. She was beaten by her husband and then chased away and beaten by his brothers. She came to Belgium to ask for protection but the only thing she’s seen since then has been bars, rejection and disregard.
Her case reminds us too well of Semira Adamu’s, who became the symbol of resistance against deeply racist and patriarchal politics. Her death had caused a great political and media stir. For us to speak about it she will have had to suffer 11 minutes of agony. 11 minutes under a cushion, hold by a police officer, and his 8 colleagues standing and watching. 6000 people had come to her funerals. “Never again” could be heard. Should we recall that closed centres continue to destroy lives? Should we recall the beating, the racist insults everyday? The scarcity of food – when it is not rotten- and the psychological pressure? No need to enumerate the conditions, confinement speaks for itself. Confinement literally kills.
Today, there are plenty of Semira Adamu’s. Two years ago, on the occasion of her 20th death anniversary, activists were shouting this motto ‘They killed a woman, not her struggle’. Because the struggle is far from finished. Michelle is not ‘only a victim’of this system; she also is a resistant. She’s been fighting every single day for months. Behind their walls retainees are shouting their anger and denouncing the injustice. Unfortunately, they do not generate enough indignation to bring them to freedom.
Since Semira Adamu’s case, the ‘cushion technique’ has been forbidden. However, the use of physical constraint or violence during evictions has still not been explicitly proscribed. On the contrary, it was reshuffled in a new directive (Bossuyt Commission’s directive) that makes this violence legitimate. Immobilisation techniques are still allowed, notably the use of handcuffs and vests, and they are regularly utilised. Eviction is intrinsically violent: while being deported under duress, these people are deprived of the fundamental freedom to choose; choose where to go, choose where to settle.
‘The hardest thing is when they handcuff you to drive you to the airport. They destroy us, I am scared.’ Michelle received her second ticket. She opposed her eviction. She fears a third ticket: what if there was a police escort next time? What is the physical and psychological pressure was so hard that time to silence her protests? Michelle would be sent back to a country where she really fears for her life.
Borders are unfair, they erect visible and invisible walls that divide and stigmatise. They support the power relations at work in our societies: class, race, gender domination.
When retainees are evicted, the Belgian state, the European Union and the NGOs worry very little, if they do at all, about their fate. They are far away now. There is no one left to speak out and denounce. Speak the truth, denounce the unacceptable. Tired of the perpetual lack of action by the political leaders, we call for the anger of everyone, for the mobilisation of collectifs, in order to refuse these racist policies and honour the memory of Semira and all the others. All those who died because of the silence of politicians and the media. All those who saw their freedoms abused. All those who are being retained today and might be evicted tomorrow. That the ‘Never again’ shouted for Semira Adamu be heard at last.
We must not allow the State to deconfine raids, imprisonments and evictions.
In favour of the destruction of walls and borders. In favour of freedom.
The freedom of others extends mine infinitely.