“You must find a solution to take us out of here”

Testimony in Arabic by a man detained for several months in different closed centres in Belgium

audio testimony here

Question : Hi, how are you?
Answer : How can I be OK? I’m not OK at all.

Q : Where did they arrest you?
A : I was selling cigarettes at the slaugherhouses’ market. I spent one night at the police station and they day after they retained me in Bruges.

Q : Were you detained alone?
A : When I arrived to the closed centre, I found myself in a wing with 30 people.
Q : How do you live the incarceration?
A : Well, the agents pretend to treat us well but one can see behind their smiles that they hate us. For example, this morning we had cheese which date had expired three days ago. If you protest, you end up in solitary confinement. You don’t have the right to use your phone after 10 p.m., everything is regulated like in a prison. We are 30 to sleep in the same room. It is just like in the prisons in our countries of origin.
In the morning they give us breakfast, then we go to a small yard for an hour. Then we have to go back to a room that doesn’t even fit everybody. Some of us have to remain standing. You may only have a shower if you do fitness. If you don’t do fitness you don’t have the right to have a shower. Once per day.

Q : Can you explain how you arrived to Europe?
A : I arrived in Italy in 2005, I worked in the black economy doing farming. I got fooled by people who asked me for money to get a residence permit.
After that I fell into drug addiction. I got arrested once and although the police did not find anything on me apart from 3 mobile phones, I was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.

Q : How long did you stay in prison?
A : 4 years and 4 months.

Q : And after that?
A : I was lost, hanging aroud during one year before I came to live with friends here in Brussels.

Q : And you were selling cigarettes in order to survive.
A : Yes, and I was not the only one, others were doing that before me. I thought it was not that serious.

Q : Were other people selling cigarettes when you got arrested?

A : Yes, 7 or 8 people, but they were all immediately released because they had papers. The police really harrassed me because I had a conflict once with a policeman, I was even beaten and ended up at the emergency.

Q : How did it go at the police station?
A : I don’t even want to talk about the police. I was feeling intimidated. Each time you say something you risk their violence. I am angry at them.

You must find a solution to take us out of here. We can not stand it anymore. We can not accept that but most of the people resign themselves. Besides, we are several nationalities here therefore it is not easy to communicate among ourselves in order to get organised.

Personally, I didn’t do anything wrong here in Belgium. The lawyer who was assigned to me says that it is my past in Italy that is playing against me.

Q : Would you like to add something? 
A: Daily life is really not easy here. You may not rest properly, there is a lot of tension because of stress and tiredness.

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