Removal (Deportation) Camp Ter Apel

september 1995

Removal (Deportation) Camp Ter Apel

The 15th of october last year, the under-secretary of the Ministry of Justice opened two Application-centres (Aanmeld- centra, A.C.). The Application-centres are the only places in the Netherlands where refugees can ask for asylum. Within 24 hours a first decision will be made by the Ministry of Justi- ce. Refugees who get rejected can appeal against the decision, but will no be offered any reception during the time of their legal procedure. These Application-centres fulfil their func- tion of deterrence fantastically, according to accounts in the press. At the opening she also briefly mentioned a new experi- ment: a removal-centre; some sort of mixture between an Centre for asylum-seekers (A.Z.C.) and a house of detention (HvB). In october the building started at the former NATO-depot in Ter Apel. In this removal-camp the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will work intensively at the expulsion of tech- nically difficult or non-expulsive foreigners. These can be both refugees as well as undocumented illegal foreigners. The Ministry of Justice claims to be able to get results within 3 months, where it is 8 months now. They think to be able to deport 50 %, direct 25% to AZC's, in case they cooperate with the investigation into their identity, the other 25% will be kicked out on the street because of their non-cooperative attitude. As if someone, who is refused admittance, would cooperate in his/her deportation. These people, who would now rightfully be in an AZC, will be detained in the prison (HvB) or be placed under surveillance in the AZC Ter Apel. Just after announcing this new centre, the under-secretary started evicting technically-difficult to expulse foreigners from their houses. They were kicked out and will probably be detai- ned at Ter Apel.

Obscure Combination

The combination between Centre for Asylum-seekers (AZC) and prison (HvB) remains unclear. Both the Ministry of Justice and the Central Accommodation Asylum-seekers (COA), responsible for the accommodation of refugees, are not able to clarify this matter. Will the door between the HvB and the AZC be open? In any case the security measures are similar, although the HvB has bars in front of the windows and the AZC doesn't. In an ordinary AZC, refugees have to report once a week, in Ter Apel they'll have to report every day. There are also extra security-measures. Usually an AZC is directed towards integration, this one's directed to expulsion. In a normal AZC refugees still have some perspective in their asylumprocedure, Ter Apel will be for those whose procedure has finished, people without perspective of staying in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Justice suggests that they will go into hi- ding, and will transfer them, at the slightest chance of deportation, from the AZC to the HvB. It is also expected that "difficult-to-handle" refugees, what ever that may mean, will be transferred to the HVB.

The position of non-refugees, ordinary illegal foreigners remains vague. According to the Aliens Act they can't be placed in an AZC. For them there is only the HvB. The question remains if article 26 has a judicial basis for detention of refugees whose asylumprocedure has ended. Especially if there is no real sight on expulsion.

Provision of Work

In the region of Ter Apel, in the north of the country, the rate of unemployment is high. The ministry of Justice promises to create 350 jobs with the removalcamp, ex-NATO personnel will get priority. The official campaign for the recruitment of personnel just started. After the applicationprocedures theoretical and practical training will take place. Staff will be recruited as attendant of foreigners and end up as warder, just as experience showed at the borderjail. Finally you'll be "attending" innocent people who'll be detained in a heavy- security AZC or simply behind bars. Staff will be asked, by refugees, over and over again:'why am I locked up?'. Employees will be executing a regime that suppresses every form of criticism. Because criticism in a closed system is seen as a danger to that system, by the Ministry of Justice.

Refugees inside security-systems

Besides work the complex will create something different: a lot of misery and despair for refugees without perspective, who came to the Netherlands looking for security and protecti- on. They will be placed under strong measures of control in this AZC.

In the HvB one will be imprisoned for months under severe regime, this while the prisoners are not-guilty of anything. Comparable prisons for refugees show that confinement of innocent refugees in a closed system creates problems by definition. Examples are the borderjail, where we visited people, but also the prisons (or wings of prisons) in Tilburg, Nieuwersluis, Leeuwarden and formerly the Schutterswei in Alkmaar. Often one is detained for half a year under severe conditions (see the article "Everything O.K.?", elsewhere). Detention also has an incriminating effect, it doesn't contri- bute to the creation of a positive image and social support for refugees. A cause, supposedly important to politicians e.g. the under-secretary of the Ministry of Justice.

What do they want with Ter Apel?

Firstly spreading the image of deterrence to possible new- comers. Further this experiment is a symbol to show that expulsion is a big priority. Under-secretary Schmitz said last year that there were 9.000 technically non-expulsive refugees who were blocking the accommodation. On the basis of these numbers more Ter Apels would be needed, since the AZC and the HvB have a capacity of respectively 300 and 288 places. Or maybe the numbers of this category of refugees have been exaggerated, to press this measure through, as has happened before.

Without documents and perspective, technically difficult to remove. Most asylum-seekers have only a small chance to stay, because of law and policy. The law excludes them, they have to leave the country. With some refugees that's not easy, because their country of origin doesn't cooperate. Others state their nationality when they request asylum, but are unable to prove it with documents. Often the Ministry of Justice doesn't believe them and the refugee is presented to different emba- ssy's. But countries of origin don't take people without documents back easily. They have to issue a travel-document, through the embassy, which is only valid a short time . It's also possible that a refugee, out of fear for expulsion, doesn't want to make his/her identity known. This is both understandable and a problem, since the inquiry into the identity will take much longer.

Many refugees have to flee their country without legal docu- ments. Escaping your own country under your own name is a big risk. Therefor most refugees travel without or with false documents. In many cases it's also impossible to get a travel- document when you are a political opponent of your country's government. The Ministry of Justice knows this. If refugees do have documents it is used against them. Because they were able to get a passport and leave the country officially they're not regarded as refugees.

Laissez-passer or agreement of return

It is quite logical that people who came here to ask for asylum and don't get it, don't cooperate with their expulsion , since they expect repercussions. As a prisoner in Ter Apel though, they don't have a choice. Non-cooperation with the investigation into their identity is almost impossible. They can conceal their origin, but then they are presented to different embassy's or employees of the embassy's drop by. The basis of the 3 months term for a decision is unclear. The so- called Removal-units have to take care of the expulsion. The Netherlands also increasingly conclude into agreements of return with countries of origin. Money and other interests play a role in these agreements. It's possible that because of this tactic, the 3 months term will be met.

What do we want with Ter Apel?

From our experiences with the borderjail and jails for illegal foreigners we began investigating what this coping-stone of the Alienspolicy would mean. Our motto is that refugees and illegals don't belong in prison. They've got a right to free- dom. But we also don't like the heavy security in this AZC and the combination of an AZC and HvB. We contacted different groups in the north of the Netherlands, to see if it is possi- ble to cope with this coping-stone. So far we have met several times and a workgroup "Freedom for Refugees" has been set up. Contacts have been made with Refugee Council (Vluchtelingen- werk) and ecclestial groups. We wrote two articles for the regional media. We asked critical questions and distributed information at an information-meeting in Ter Apel, organized by the IND and the COA. The workgroup organized an informati- on-meeting of their own in Ter Apel, last september. Before the meeting a house-to-house paper was distributed in Ter Apel/Vlagtwedde. It is essential to voice criticism about this experiment. These actions take place from our work against detention of refugees and illegal foreigners.