hearing on the custody of foreigners

the border-prison: 'Grenshospitium'

Removal (Deportation) Camp Ter Apel

judicial complex Willem II in Tilburg

Amir from Iran, a personal story

Makun'a', a personal story

"Everything O.K.?", a personal story

"Everything O.K.?"

Three months spent in the borderprison, after which a forced life in illegality. Arrested for illegal residence and detai- ned for 5 months in a foreigners-detention-centre. Kicked out on the street: illegal again, with as perspective being arre- sted again for illegal residence. The existence or non-exis- tence of an illegal foreigner.

John, a refugee who asked asylum in 1993, was refused at Schiphol-airport and imprisoned in the borderprison. We visited and supported him there. Because the Ministry of Justice couldn't expel him at the time, they simply threw him out on the streets after three months of useless, painful and expensive detention. Last 5 months he was detained again, this time in the prison for illegal foreigners in Tilburg. There we also visited him. He was kicked out on the street again, just now, after 5 months of imprisonment in the Willem II-prison, made illegal again. A full circle.

No documents, no identification? Outlawed!

He lived on as an illegal after being dumped from the border- prison. He got a modest job, with which he could support him- self, and led his life with his girlfriend and child. Regular- ly he would come into our office and ask:"everything o.k.?". And suddenly everything wasn't o.k., he was arrested again. This time by the Mobil Inspection Foreigners (M.T.V., 'flying squads' by members of the constabulary), in the train just behind the border. Not having a passport or identification, usually means arrest, detention and expulsion for black people. He was delivered, after being handcuffed by the MTV, to the regional police. There he was solitarily confined in a policecell for a week. They intimidated him at questioning, suggesting that his expensive jacket was paid for by drugsmoney. When he claimed that it was a present from his girlfriends' family, they accused him of lying. They asked him if he was scared. Eventually he was transferred to Tilburg.

Detention-centre for illegal foreigners Tilburg

The functionary, concerned with the return of foreigners, said that if he didn't cooperate with his expulsion he could be in prison for a year. His girlfriend was asked what his natio- nality was. This also happened to a friend of another detai- nee. A violation of privacy and an attempt to get a civilian involved in an identity-investigation of the Ministry of Justice. He was presented to an embassy once, but he didn't get a laissez-passer or a traveldocument, required for expul- sion. Twice a request of lifting of detention took place. A judge has to test whether the detention is just or if it has to be lifted. Both times he lost, because the Ministry of Justice claimed to need more time for the investigation in to his identity. This they already tried at the borderjail, without success. Now, there wasn't even an investigation running. Just before the third request of lifting detention came to court, John was released.

Disorientated after 5 months of imprisonment

Once "free" he had lost his bearing. As John said: 'in there they experiment on your life-style, for them the question is if they can break you. They should think about the psychologi- cal effect of detention on an innocent man. You lose every- thing, you have to start all over again. Months of your life have been waisted and they treat you like an animal. When you walk around again, as "usual", you're frightened'.


Detention of foreigners is a strong measure, there has to be a prospect of expulsion, but there is no limit to the length of time of detention. Fellow-prisoners of John had been there for up to 7 months. The regime is hard as well: visitors are allowed one hour a week, the date is set by the authorities. If it's not possible, you don't get a visit. The medical service usually advices a stroll or gives you an aspirin, whatever the complaint. They acknowledge though, that most complaints are a result of the stress, coming from being detained. It's possible to work 20 hours a week for 27,50, which is badly underpaid. During John's detention the work was irrita- ting to the lungs, because of the dust coming free. It is hypocritical that illegal foreigners are used for work in prison, whereas they're not allowed to work in society. Detainees can buy groceries and fruit, from the prisonstore, once a week via a list. The charges are deducted from their account. Prices are higher than in a supermarket. Further they have sport and exercise two or three times a week, for three quarters of an hour. They are allowed out once a day, for one hour, in a cage. Twice a week the modest libra- ry is opened. Once a week a creativity-session is held. The rest of the time, you waist it.


John's detention was lingering on, while there was no perspec- tive. He was getting desperate of the circumstances. He tried to commit suicide. After this he was, as is standard with these cases, put in isolation for two weeks. He was not allo- wed to call his girlfriend or lawyer. He didn't get good counselling. He was forced to stay naked for some hours, didn't have a mattress or blanket and wasn't allowed to take a shower or to go out. He got a visit from his girlfriend once, on this occasion his one-year-old child was searched as well. The neonlight in his cell burned 24 hours a day, because of the camera-observation. John's eyes got badly irritated. He filed a complaint over this affair at the council of in- spection. They declared the complaint grounded on one point: that he wasn't allowed to contact his lawyer. The council said a guard could have made the call for him. As a compensation his girlfriend was allowed to visit him for half an hour longer.