We live on the alert

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17 January 2011 – A detainee of the Zaventem centre on the phone

First I would like to say, concerning detention centres, because it is the first time that I enter them but I had already heard about them. One thing that is really depressing for us foreigners who are here, is that most of us are willing to integrate. Most of us have made papers in order to be regularised, but we got arrested even with that. Most of the people who are here found themselves here because the regularisation request turned against them.

Thus we’re a little bit sad because we can see that in Belgium for example there are loads of homeless people, they have no shelter. Instead of transforming these places and welcome all these people and help them get a status to be able to work and be honest people, they just don’t want to…

Besides, many of the people who are here have a lot of problems in their countries and can not go back.

And they are deporting many people, really a lot. When you sleep at night, around 5 a.m they come to take you out of bed and bring you to the airport, by force, they will make you starve there so that you get weak. After that, an escort of around 10 policemen scotch tape you to put you on a plane.

We live on the alert all the time, you never know if you can close your eyes or not. Many people here have started a hunger strike, some of them already for 21 days, they are very weak physically and morally, but the authorities don’t even look at them.

Even if you fall sick they tell you: ‘you are pretending just to be freed, but we can not free you’. And the officers are sometimes nice sometimes…, thus it is really really hard.

Here in Vottem there are four wings. You have more or less 30 or 40 detainees per wing. In our wing, at least five people are on a hunger strike. What we are living is extremely hard.

It is really a prison, even worse than that, because people in jail are sometimes released, they know how much time they will have to stay and when they will leave, but here, they even say this is a waiting room, we are here just to wait that they deport us wherever they think best.

And there is another problem I wanted to mention, we really have an issue with the embassies, mainly the African embassies that are easily handing out laissez-passer to the Belgian authorities, although not being aware of the situation of the people they are sending back to their countries. I want to draw the attention to the Embassy of Congo in particular. We can see they hand out laissez-passer to send back the Congolese very arbitrarily.

Thus I don’t know if they have been bribed by the Foreigners’ Office or the Belgian authorities to hand out laissez-passer, but this is something really regrettable.

There are people who still are in the process of getting their papers here, but the embassies are handing out laissez-passer to send these people back to their countries, even though they know they will be in trouble when they arrive.

Sometimes they don’t have enough proof to deport the person, hence they look for a reason to prolong the detention for two months.

People here live on the alert, they can not sleep. Each time one calls you to supposedly go to the hospital, or see the social assistant, there are guards to arrest you. They put you in the prison cell for a few hours or for a day, and then they bring you to the airport by force to deport you.

That is the situation. What we really deplore is that we listened to the advice of M. Whatelet and we did what he told us to get regularised and have the papers that prove we are living in Belgium and we are of this or that nationality… but it is the same papers that serve as a weapon against us.

Most of the people here were in favour of M. Whatelet’s party because he had strongly committed himself for foreigners, but when he came to the government, he did the same as Ms Turtelboom did before him, i.e. deport people, and he does it even better than her.

– OK, thanks a lot.

OK, thank you madam.

– See you soon.

Good bye.

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