Around 400 people protested outside the Vottem (Herstal) detention centre on Saturday afternoon, after an Eritrean committed suicide on the 9th of October. The protest was organised by the Collective for Resistance against Centres for Foreigners (CRACPE). The deceased refugee, who was 36, was going to be deported to Bulgaria as it was the first country that accepted him and give him a residence permit.
The refugee had been at the centre for around 4 months. “His lawyer was asking for him to be released and the Council Chamber agreed. But the Foreigner’s Office appealed the decision, as they do every time”, says France Arets, the CRACPE spokesman.
The CRACPE says the man was unhappy in detention and slipped deeper and deeper into depression. Not long before his suicide, he was transferred to another wing and put in a room on his own. He died by hanging himself with his bedsheets.
“The other Eritreans at the centre don’t understand why they isolated this man and left him with no surveillance when he was suffering so badly”, says France Arets. He didn’t want to move to his new host country as he had previously suffered racist abuse in Bulgaria, according to the protest’s organisers.
Around 400 people gathered in front the Vottem centre to stage a protest on Saturday afternoon. Some had painted their hands red and were carrying signs saying “The State has blood on its hands”. The protesters believe Belgium should welcome immigrants.
“Detention centres are deportation machines. Nothing is omitted: cells, prison within a prison, secure isolation wings and disciplinary transfers… These refugees don’t understand why they are being treated like criminals”, says the CRACPE spokesman.
The protestors walked around the centre making lots of noise and shouting slogans so the immigrants inside could hear them. “Everything is designed to make the immigrants accept their situation and eventual deportation, but nothing is done about their psychological distress”, says Mrs Arets.
“Citizens have to resist this deadly asylum and immigration policy, which replaces much-needed assistance with deportation”, she concluded.