Chapter 1: Refugees

Chapter 2: The Borderprison

Chapter 3: Daily life

Chapter 4: Medical care

Chapter 5: Protest

Chapter 6: Restriction of freedom

Chapter 7: Expulsions

Chapter 8: Intimidations

Chapter 9: Conclusions

This publication is a summary of the dutch texts that were (Autonomous Centre) published on May 5, 1993.

Chapter 5: Protest (you can find the other chapters on there name in this data-base)


This chapter provides a summary of a number of significant protest actions undertaken by the refugees to draw attention to their plight. Aside from the use of force by the police and the use of solitary confinement (isolation) there has never been any constructive response to the complaints that the refugees have made.

On Wednesday 17th of June 1992 six refugees from Zaire joined a nationwide hungerstrike demanding improved conditions for refugees from Zaire. The next day some eight refugees of various nationalities in the border prison joined the hunger- strike. Their action protested against their imprisonment.

In the summer a number of refugees protested against having to be in their cells at quarter past nine in the evening. One evening they refused to return to their cells. The governor who had hastily been called up to appear, threatened to send in police, after which the refugees allowed themselves to locked up.

On the 17th of October 1992 dissatisfaction about the quality of the food came to a head. During dinner 32 signatures were collected and presented to the assistant governor. The assi- tant governor promised to take the matter up with the kitchen. The refugees accepted this commitment.

On the 19th of November 1992 a large group of refugees sent a joint letter to the outside world, addressed to Amnesty Inter- national, VVN (a refugee support group) and ourselves. They demanded to be allowed to speak with the press and asked the above mentioned organisations to take action to achieve this. All contacts with the press had been frustrated and made impossible in the previous weeks.

On the 27th November 1992 a a meeting with the management of the border prison took place. The complaints: the fact that the refugees are innocent, but are treated as if they are criminals; transfer to solitary confinement (isolation) in the Bijlmer prison after insignificant incidents; a week earlier the dutch military police failed to deport and wounded refugee S.; complaints about the food; poor medical care and a callous party for employees of the border prison (wih drinks and music) whilst the refugees were locked up in their cells. These complaints lead to the following demands:
- An end to the injustice through which some are admitted and others are not. An end to the unfair disparity in the treat- ment of those who arrive over land compared with their own treatment;
- improved medical care;
- better food;
- a limit to the period of detention.

On monday the 30th of November 1992 another meeting took place in the morning, because the previus meeting of the 27th had not lead to any results. The meeting had to be adjourned for lunch. It was decided to continue the meeting after the lunch break. The management said not to be able to anything about the complaints. The refugees should have complained to the Justice Department, as they take the decisions there. The logical response from the refugees is that they wanted to speak with someone from the Justice Department. The management promised to get in touch with the Justice Department and that there will be a reply at five o'clock. During dinner the reply came. All refugees we have spoken with have said that is was quite peaceful at that time. Just after the refugees were locked into the wards for dinner at five o' clock all windows leading to the stairway from each ward were blinded with sheets and blankets. Moments later the National Prison Riot Squad (LBD) fully attired with helmet and club together with someone from the border prison storm into each ward in turn and arrest those who spoke up most in the past few days. They were thrown onto the ground, handcuffed and removed. Refugees who arrived to protest and to ask what was going on and why this was necessary were hit with clubs. Ten people were remo- ved to remand prisons and kept in solitary confinement (isola- tion). None of these ten were ever returned to the border prison even though the Justice Department claimed that is was a temporary measure. Two were deported, one was admitted to refugee reception centre and seven were put intot the street, with neither money nor identity papers.

A a new letter from the refugees reached the management desks on the 21st of December 1992 with the same demands as those made in November 1992. The management made no tangible respon- se to eaither set of demands. The management's reaction to the December letter was to appoint a 'leader' who would have to report to one of the governors. The management would be prepa- red to talk, but only with this 'leader'. This man refused that because these demands were made by all refugees and not just by him.

On the 29th of December a guard was wounded by one of the detainees, despite the 'quiet situation' according to the management. Who did it is as yet unclear. The guard saw not- hing and neither did the detainees of the ward where the incident took place. The detainees of the ward were collecti- vely punished by confinement within their ward for thirty days.

On Monday 25 January 1993 a letter signed by (as far as we know) 22 refugees is presented to the management with the statement that their detention is contrary to the provisions of the Human Rights Treaties and the Conventions of Geneva and making the same demands as those made in November and December of 1992. The action is due to the fact that neither the mana- gement nor the Justice Department has responded to the demands made on the 30th November 1992.

On the 27th of January 1993 a group of more than thrirty refugees refused to be locked in for the evening meal. Singing slogans ("All we are saying is give us our freedom") and carrying signs they demonstrated against their detention from four thirty till ten o'clock in the evening. Around seven o'clock the National Prison Riot Squad went in, but did not act as everyone finally returned to their cells voluntarily. The management provided the refugees with some addresses they already had (VVN, Amnesty International, Justice Department). Other refugees who did not take part in the demonstration were all locked up in their cells at five o'clock. The refugees who were demnstrating demanded an end to their detention, better food and medical care and the same treatment the refugees receive in the Asylum Seeker's Centres.

According to the Justice Department there was an arson plot and refugees planned to take members of staff of the border prison hostage on the 29th of March 1993. We heard that some fifty refugees wanted to demonstrate at five o'clock against detention and bad food. It was to be a nonviolent demonstrati- on like the one of 27th January. All visits were cancelled on the 29th of March and a number of items were no longer availa- ble in the shop. At around two o'clock six refugees were taken before the management and told that they could no longer stay in the border prison because of their character and attitude and were therefore to be transferred to other prisons. It appears that the management was aware that something was due to happen. Why precisely these six were picked out is not clear to us since fifty refugees were planning to protest. To the present day nothing has substantiated the justice depart- ment's claims of arson plots and conspiracies to take hosta- ges. No proof at all, except that the justice department says that firedetectors were taped up.

On the 31st of March there were said to be disquiet in the border prison. Twelve members of the National Prison Riot Squad were present until two o'clock in the afternoon. No vistors at all were allowed, not even lawyers.

A group of refugees went to BSD to complain about the food on Friday 2nd of April 1993. The previous day glass had been found in the food (apparently an amiss with the catering). A number of refugees suffered from stomach trouble and had to vomit. That Friday something was wrong with the food again. Therefore everybody refused to eat. A delegation of some ten people went off to BSD and the management to complain. An affray started, with bad words, pushing and shoving. Subse- quently some refugees were locked in their cells for a nuber of hours and five were placed in the military prison in Nieu- wersluis.

Up to now most protests have had a peaceful character. The response of the Justice Department has always been a further restriction of freedom and an ever more repressive policy. Locking up people who have done nothing wrong will always lead to tension. We expect that more incidents will take place. Incidents which repression will lead to be more violent. We do not blame the refugees. It is understandable that they seek to maintain their human dignity and resist detention and struggle to regain their liberty.