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 9: Conclusions
To the question whether or not we can speak of detention and a prison in our opinion only one answer seems possible. Yes it is detention and yes, it is a prison. Everything in the design has been derived from the prison system: the building itself, the complaints procedure, the organisation etc. What is more, in a number of aspects it is even worse than in a regular prison. The main difference is that the inhabitants are inno- cent. Besides, isolation measures are applied in an earlier stage and on a larger scale. Moreover the regulations are much vaguer and offer less protection for both refugees and person- nel. Every assertiveness is punished. The entire system is designated to keep everything controllable and peaceful. The refugee organisations and other organisations offering assis- tance to the refugees are assigned the same role. When these organisations act out of character they are obstructed.
Summarizing, we can conclude that article 7a Vw is contrary to several articles of the European Treaty on the Rights of the Individual, amongst other things because: 1. Art. 7a Vw is insufficiently accessible and insuffi- ciently defined. Exactly because it concerns such a highly drastic measure as deprivation of liberty, this should appear unequivocally from the article.
2. In our opinion art. 7a Vw results in a demonstrable disparity in treatment (whether the alien enters the country by land or via Schiphol Airport), for which no objective justification can be given. There is also no question of a reasonable proportionality between aims and means.
3. In art. 7a Vw there is no guarantee against arbitra- riness, which paves the way for arbitrary and therefore unlawful detention. Moreover, stipulations concerning aim, grounds and term of detention are completely absent. That arbitrariness is present is also shown in practice. It frequently happens that the justice department changes its mind and decides that a refugee apparently has some basis for his asylum application after all. Such a decision can be taken (and is taken) without any new facts, events or circumstances having been presented by the refugee. Apparently the original decision in such a case was wrong and detention in the border prison was ordered on abitrary grounds. The European Court for Human Rights has ordained in several verdicts that an arbitra- ry detention can never be lawful.
The medical facilities have proven insufficient in the first year. It has become apparent that the refugees' complaints are not taken seriously. This is caused on the one hand by the design, in which only preventive care is offered and no lon- glasting treatment is started, and on the other hand by the prejudices of the doctors, who assume that the refugees simply simulate, hoping to be admitted to the Netherlands. There are hardly any arrangements for psychiatric care. The abuses in the Medical Service caused a large turnover in personnel; several nurses left and since a couple of weeks the doctors too are on sick leave. It is probable that they will not return; the same goes for the first governor.
Everything in the border prison is dominated by the desire to maintain order, calm and safety. In order to do , frequent use is being made of "segregation measures". These are in fact punitive measures and almost invariably mean isolation in a house of detention. The accusations range from "verbal agression" to "attempted arson or hostage-taking": the punishment is always the same. Thirty nine times since the opening of the prison this punishment has been imposed. All these transferrals can be disputed judicially, for they are in contravention of article 31 of the Refugee Treaty and article 18 of the Europe- an Treaty on Human Rights. Isolation measures are partly also inflicted in the border prison itself. This happens not only to people who cause "commotion" (17 times since the 28th of December 1992, to the best of our knowled- ge), but also to people whose expulsion has failed. Moreover, it happens often that people are isolated who are in a bad psychological state of mind; once even for a period of two weeks. These measures have in common that they are almost always inflicted on people who refuse to accept their detenti- on. In this way the gover- nor hopes to create the desired atmosphere in the institution and to intimidate people in such a way that the chance of assertiveness is kept to a minimum. Since isolation is a very drastic measure which may have severe psychological effects, in other jails and houses of detention these sorts of measures are only applied under strict conditions, for instance after consulting the institu- tion doctor. All these conditions, and others, are not met by the governor of the border prison.
The Regulations of the Border Hostel are only a hotchpotch of vague rules. They hold little that the refugee can derive almost no rights from them. There are, however, a number of favours possible, but these can be taken from the refugee at any time. This puts the refugees in a worse position than the detainees in other prisons. The rights of the personnel are also insufficiently guaranteed, due to which criticism on the organisation of the border prison becomes a tricky business. Regarding this latest aspect the staff plays an important part. In the past year it became clear that the staff, in the persons of Politiek and Moldovan, have an extremely negative influence. Their state- ments in the media and the practice of their policy show a contempt for refugees. They leave their mark on the atmosphere in the border prison, that more critical personnel and the employees who are concerned with the refugees' lot are hampered.
Abusing the situation
From several cases it has become clear that the staff of the border prison abuses the situation of the refugees. Both in November 1992 and in March 1993 the staff made use of infor- mants. Both informants were paid for their work by admitting them to the Netherlands. During his interrogation by the staff one of the refugees who was transferred to the Nieuwersluis prison on March 29 was led to believe that he would probably be given asylum in exchange for information.
In times of unrest the staff and personnel resort to all sorts of harassment and intimidation. Especially the intimidation becomes increasingly open and blatant. The intimidations of refugees who want us to visit them is unheard of. As all previous intimidations these will also be of no effect. The tensions which have been present since the opening will remain as long as refugees are being detained. far the refugees' actions have had a peaceful character. The increased pressure on them exercised by personnel and staff and the rapidly tightening regime will probably see to it that this will not remain unchanged. When serious incidents will occur, these will not be related to the supposed criminality of the detai- nees, but to the increasing restrictions imposed on people who are detained for having sought asylum.
In view of the great number of refugees who are after all sent on to a Refugee Centre or are dumped we can conclude that the function of the building desired by Justice (only to prevent asylum seekers with no chance of being accepted from entering the Netherlands) has not been realised. As far as we know 35% of the refugees was let through up to April 1993 and about twenty persons were dumped. The number of refugees passed would certainly have been larger if the refugees could have defended their asylum application in liberty. It is also unclear in which statistics the refugees have been entered who are dumped at Schiphol Airport after a failed expulsion or who are sent on to the Refugee Centre after all.
The number of expulsions via the border prison compared to the total number of expulsions is very small. Consequently what remains is the deterring effect and a psychological effect: "Look, we are indeed active in stopping the stream of refu- gees". The deterrent effect is minimal; the number of refugees entering via Schiphol Airport has been going down for years, which makes it impossible to measure the influence of the border prison.
Concluding we can state that article 7a Vw and the resulting practice of the border prison is objectionable on judicial, political as well as on humanitarian grounds. The explicit wish of Parliament that the border prison should not be a detention centre, but as Kosto formulates, should fulfil a "semi-hotel" function, appears to have not come true in a single aspect. The practice of the past year shows that it is a totalitarian repressive system of which the why and wherefo- re is unclear. In our opinion there is enough basis for a debate in Parliament on the desirability of the continuation of detention in the border prison and the detention of refu- gees in general. The allocation of other places as meant in article 7a alone should be enough to call for a debate. During the discussion of the "new article 7a Vw" it comes to a dis- cussion about the applicability of the article. Parliament is in particular concerned that art. 7a Vw will only be used for detention in the border prison and not in other places. In order to do away with an amendment on this subject Kosto states: "Why can't you be content with my thesis that if the Border Hostel is built that it will be sufficient for Schiphol and Rotterdam? Should there be calamities or other problems I am inclined to allocate other facilities." The circumstances alone in which this could happen would be reason enough to call another parliamentary debate. In the mean time nine places as intended in art. 7a Vw have been allocated without parliament having been consulted once. Parliament will have to take a clear stand whether it will assume the political res- ponsibility for the practice as we have outlined in this brochure. Anyway, we and many people with us will not resign ourselves to these practices.