Thursday, October 26, 2006

Abu Graib conditions in the Netherlands

I received this today from an internet friend who is closely involved with refugees and asylum seekers in the Netherlands. That many of these people are treated badly in detention and during their deportation is not new...but the fact that it is to this extent is simply shocking. Some practices are unthinkably familiar to the stories and pictures floating from the US debacle of Abu Graib...

What followes is a a number of first-person accounts from within deportation centres in the country (From: Zwartboek van het Vluchtelingenkordon Fryslan 2004):

(The acronymn IND stands for Immigration and Naturalisation Service, which is in charge of processing and executing the status and deportation of asylym seekers in the Netherlands):

Deportation centres

In the Netherlands there are two concentration centres for people to be deported.

One at Rotterdam airport and one at Amsterdam airport. The one at Rotterdam airport is the biggest, the most used one and most horrible one.

After finishing the asylum procedure, people officially can be kept here by force under custody for 8 weeks. The centres are known by refugee-workers as intimidation centres because of the methods that are being used to manipulate people to cooperate with deportation. The centre is also used for illegal people, no matter if they were on asylum before or not. If the judge estimates the chance on possible deporta­tion after 8 weeks on more then 50 %, people can be held for another 9 months in one of the numerous detention centres for illegal people all over the Netherlands.

Deportation centre Rotterdam can not be visited by refugee workers. Only a few people ever saw the inside of this centre. After a visit from the departmental investigation committee for health care, the centre health care system was rejected strongly. A television crew from Dutch public broadcasting was denied any future entry after showing a negative impressi­on. Later crew members from a concurrent TV-station were shown windows by staff of the deportation centre but these appeared to be existing of non transparent material covered with curtains.

During 2004, we received the following stories which were confirmed by more witnes­ses. Dutch broadcast stations also spent several television programs recently on this issue. The reaction from the department of foreign affairs was one of anger and denial.

Under custody 1

I was held inside a hall with blind walls for 8 weeks in a cell from 2x2 meter including toilet. There was no window in the cell, so no daylight and there was no fresh air. I was not allowed to use a toothbrush, there was nothing to rub my body with. One visitor smuggled a needle and dread inside the prison which was used to prepare some material to clean our bodies. Every day we were put in a cage for one hour so that we could see the air. I was feeling like an animal. In one other cage, people made noises like if they already became animals.

Under custody 2

Me and my little child were arrested without any reason while stamping our stamping cards. We were brought to Rotterdam and put inside a room with prison personnel. We were forced to undress, kneel down and stand up several times. After some days we were released without any explanation.

Under custody 3

We had to eat white rice with beans for a couple of weeks, day in day out. Till I started to vomit. During my stay one woman was objecting very politely having to enter her cell after 40 instead of 60 minutes.

After that, she didn't get any food for the rest of the day. When she knocked on the door for explanation, some military personnel dragged her out of the cell, pushed her on the floor, bound her wrists together on the back, taped her mouth with wide isolation tape and pulled some kind of cotton bag or sheet around her head. They were dragging her along the hall to some place. Everybody saw this, included children. People started shouting and screaming like hell, we all thought that she was going to be killed because we experienced this before in our own country.

Under custody 4

My lawyer said there was no chance that they were going to deport me because of my health condition. But they still came to get me out of my cell. I was struggling for my life because I knew I was going to be killed in my own country or die without medical treatment. Five armed men came and used a lot of force on my body for a longer period. After 8 hours in isolation, they released me, accidentally having taken the wrong person. Some weeks later they took me again to a separation department for people waiting for the airplane. The prison doctor took my blood-pressure. I was crying all night, thinking about my killed family-members and begging God to take my life that very night. One hour before departure I was taken away to a normal prison thanks to my lawyer and released later because of my health without explanation or means of transport.

Under custody 5

They always came unexpected in the middle of the night to take the people out of there cells. You never knew on which doors they were going to knock. On these nights it was like you could smell death passing along. Afterwards I always experienced a penetrating smell of piss.

Under custody 6

My lawyer sent a medical statement to the IND to get me out of prison because of an apparently life threatening disease. But the IND said that they never received the statement and tried to deport me during many weeks.

Under custody 7

My visitor forgot to take her wallet from the locker. He only got it back when I signed for it. Next day they told me that I signed for some nationali­ty-declaration so they could now bring me to some country. But I didn't come from there. My lawyer asked for a copy from the statement but he never got it.

Under custody 8

I was complaining about my health. The prison doctor said it was only relevant if I could be transported by plane or not. He added that how soon I would die was not important. In the hospital, despite begging, I had to walk with my arms bound on the back. I was very ashamed and it was very painful due to my health. The IND-chosen surgeon didn't want to examine me and decided there was no transportation-problem. After a second opinion I was turn into the streets again.

Under custody 9

People where imprisoned only with pyjama and slippers and also put on the airplane like that. It seemed that they wanted to deport everybody to Lagos/Nigeria, even French speaking people.

Under custody 10

After 8 weeks in a deportation centre, I was imprisoned in a detention centre for 6 months. I was released on a Friday. Sunday I have been thanking my God on the podium of our ministry.

Next day (Monday) I was visiting a friend staying under church asylum and doing her hair. Suddenly the police broke the door and took all of us out of the apartment and I stayed in prison again for a long time.

Under custody 11

People have been calling me to tell about their experiences in a deportati­on centre and I talked to people who visited a deportati­on centre. I have to express my deepest horror about what I have been hearing. I found out that heavily ill people were not assisted by a doctor because he didn’t want to help people simulating serious diseases to avoid deportation. I am deeply ashamed having to be a member of this so called Christian society lead by a government who is treating people less than animals because these people where so unlucky to be born on the wrong place without peace and food and are therefore condemned to life long expulsion from the so called civilised society.

Under Custody 12

I have been hearing about big amounts of people originally coming from the West-coast of Africa now being transported to Lagos, without any means of life and causing heavy problems in the area, trying by all means to get a way of life or get back home, often becoming the victim of rape and murder.

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