What to do in case of imprisonment: Update 1 October 2019

For several weeks, the referents of the Citizens’ Platform and Gettingthevoiceout have received far less notifications of imprisonment.

However, we still hear about regular raids in ports, cities and train stations.

The situation in the centres:

Very few retainees still have a host family and they totally ignore their rights in case they are arrested/imprisoned. The only information they get comes from the staff of the centres recruited by the Foreigners Office o in order to organise their return (‘return officers’), who rarely mention their rights to defend themselves or, even worse, who dissuade them to use this right and exert pressure on them so that they sign their voluntary return at all costs (for e.g a retainee who had refused to sign the request of voluntary return was woken up by guards one morning with a pen and the document to be signed).

For the moment, the Dublin returns are the most common and one rarely see their release (even though a Dublin return is often felt as a release from the ignominious centres/prisons) following the change in law and the impossibility for the lawyers to file an emergency application (see below).

To be noted also, many other ‘non-Dublinisable’ retainees have been imprisoned for months, sometimes a year, while waiting to be deported to their country of origin, a country sometimes totally imaginary, since the agreements with that country are far from being clear.

Forced deportations are very frequent and extremely violent. Last testimony here http://www.gettingthevoiceout.org/deportation-youre-an-animal-youre-a-monkey-why-do-you-make-like-this-you-monkey/

Why are there less notifications and support from the platform’s hosts?

The hosts used to be our very first source of notification for an arrest/retention.
The number of hosts has dramatically decreased over the last months and more and more transmigrants are left with no family and no contacts in Belgium, they are only transiting through Belgium and ignore everything of the legal possibilities and of their rights in closed centres.
It seems that not enough information is given to migrants  in case of arrest .

Change in the legislation:

In the past, the release after an emergency application towards the CCE within 5 to 10 days to contest the retention was relatively easy.

However, the law has been changed, and now the Foreigners Office are entitled to sign the retention arrest. A first “X1” decision is taken: it is the decision on the initial retention which requests the retention of the individual in order to determine which State is responsible. Then comes a decision “X2” which is the decision to transfer the individual to the country responsible and the decision to retain that person while waiting for the transfer (it is article 51/5/1 that transposes Dublin III (in effect since 19 July 2019).

As soon as decision X1 has been taken, the lawyers may act in front of the Court of Appeal attesting that:
1. the transmigrants were not informed, in a language they understand, of the reasons of their retention, in violation of article 5 § 2 of the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights), (most of the time they are being questioned by the police without any interpreter).
2. the Foreigners Office did not study the possibility to apply an alternative to the retention. Unfortunately there is a real systemic problem in the sense that no judge accepts to question the decisions of the Foreigners Office during the appeal towards the court.

Once X2 has been determined, other appeals towards the ECHR are possible for some nationalities to some Dublin countries.

What to do:

  • Before a retention: have medical evidence attesting an increased vulnerability, a failure of care by the so-called Dublin country. These elements significantly help the lawyers to obtain a release. Hence do not hesitate to ask for a medical follow-up and collect elements in that sense during the hosting, before the arrest.
  • Advise the persons who are arrested to say that they do not understand, simply that. Tell them not to sign the documents they are given and/or to write in their native language “I do not understand what is written” instead of the signature or next to it. It will enable the lawyers in front of the court to prove the lack of information given to the retainees during their arrest.
  • Advise the retainees to refuse the lawyer the closed centre want to assign them and contact the people who know competent lawyers. If a lawyer has already been assigned (which is often the case), they should ask for a change of lawyer.
  • Advise them not to listen to the social assistants and the staff of the centre and to speak to the lawyer (possibly via the hosts). According to the file, the lawyers will advise them to introduce appeals, to sign a voluntary return, to question the X2 in front of the CCE for some Dublin countries. Specifically for Germany for e.g. it is more interesting to sign a voluntary return than to introduce appeals that last and extend the retention.
  • If the deportation is effective, advise the retainee to sign the appeal towards the ECHR that will be introduced by the lawyer to attest the illegality of these arrests and in the long term oblige Belgium to modify this new law.
  • Spread this information widely.
  • Try to have contacts through friends in closed centres of the retainees who don’t have lawyers nor family, to try and inform them on their rights.

It is clear that the Office does its best to deport so as to continue improving their deportation figures (despite knowing that a deportation to a neighbour Dublin country will not stop the migrants in their quest for a ‘welcoming’ country), changing laws to avoid appeals, making life in the centres the most repressive possible so that their ‘residents’ sign and accept their return, criminalising the migrants, putting pressure on the States through their embassies to get the let-passes that are needed to enable a deportation to a third country, using extremely violent escorts to deport the rebellious at all costs.

Spread the word.

In case of retention or deportation/release, send all the information to the closed centres’ referents via gettingthevoiceout@riseup.net. We are collecting all the information available to understand these policies and find tricks to bypass retentions and deprtations, be it on the legal level or through actions.

Let’s resist by all means and on all levels to prevent deportations!
Let’s be solidary with the exiles’ revolts and their refusal to embark.
No to migrants’ containment of any kind.


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