We are treated like animals

22 January 2011 – Testimony as told to a visitor at a detention centre

I am 41 years old, I am married and I have 3 children. We were living in a village occupied by Israel in Palestine. I had a job and money, the problem was that I was part of the Arab-Palestinian minority. It was unbearable! Lots of my friends left the village. I decided to leave for England or Norway. I know someone there so I could have established myself there and then sent for my family.

I paid a lot to get to Belgium, it was a long difficult journey. To Italy by boat, then six days of travelling in different cars.

I had been in Belgium for two days when I was stopped for a police check. And I have been in detention for over two months.

We are treated like animals here, the people who work here are not human beings.

There are lots of suicide attempts, we put up with moral torture. The guards change a lot. Regardless of the type of health problem you have the doctors will give you an aspirin or a sedative. I had really sore teeth and my cellmate was suffering from kidney stones: we were both given aspirin, nothing else.

The other day, a refugee broke a window in the middle of the night and tried to escape. I don’t know if he succeeded but the guards made us all go outside into the courtyard. It was really cold, it was 2.30 in the morning.

I thought Belgium was a country of freedom, democracy and human rights, but it turns out that it is the complete opposite. The actions of the Belgian government don’t reflect the brave and kind nature of the Belgian people. Before arriving in Belgium I thought it was a country that was behind the Palestinian struggle, but what I have been subjected to here doesn’t reflect that.

I want to be free so I can continue my journey to Norway. If I can’t I want to return to occupied Palestine and be with my wife and children. I would prefer to return to that hell than to stay imprisoned in this holding centre.

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