Migrants in detention complex Schiphol Airport fight brutality, call for help

This is a press release by M2M Radio who call for your help in an urgent struggle. Migrant to Migrant, calls on activists and artists for international collaboration in solidarity. On the 18th of February the inmates of Block L demanded clear information on their fate. “How long can they keep us here? Is asking for asylum a crime in this country? Why are we here?” In Block L migrants are detained who are supposed to be deported back home. They did not fulfill the tough requirements to be accepted as a refugee.

But it can take a long time, even more than a year, for the Ministry of Justice to find out how to deport a single person, especially when s/he is from a country like Sudan, Somalia or Palestine, where the civil registers are not quite up to date. According to Dutch law the simple fact of not having the proper documents is not a violation. The reason for detaining thousands of migrants is administrative: to facilitate a smooth exit when opportunity knocks.

Hunger strike

When satisfying answers to their questions were not available from the staff and the director, some 40 of the migrants, decided to insist by sitting down on the ground of the cage for fresh air and refuse to return to their cells. This action was then broken by forcing them one-by-one back to his or her cell, handcuffed and when “opportune” in isolation cells. Fifty riot police in full gear entered the stage and used “proportional violence”, in the terms used by the managing director of Penitentiary Institutions in a report of Dutch NOVA TV.

Twenty inmates were forced to watch how Surah Keladze (from Georgia) was beaten up, how Ibrahim Hussein (Sudan) was hit in his genitals. That same day 36 of the inmates of Block L went on hunger strike and are now organizing their resistance, their fight for freedom. And they call on us to fight with them.

In Dutch detention centers the conditions are worse than in regular prisons. There are women among the men, which is against the law. People have to sleep in paper sheets. There are less facilities for recreation, medical care and communication. This adds to the isolated locations and the lack of family in many cases. This drives many of the detained sans-papiers crazy and mad. Resistance is met by violence: isolation cells, hand cuffs and beatings are regular practices. It is not the first time that a group of inmates starts a protest, but it is a new that inmates manage to communicate directly with activists and advocacy groups in the country of Holland.

M2M Radio, Migrant to Migrant, receives daily reports from several outspoken detainees in Block L over the phone. This is made possible by people who donate eleven Euro for phone credit. You can listen to their recorded phone calls at the M2M website.

The number eleven is a direct symbolic reference to the eleven migrants who died in the fire in Block K in October 2005. This fire has been a turning point in the growing social movement rallying against these detention centers and for a humane treatment of migrants. The survivors of the “Schiphol Fire” are united in their quest for truth and justice and M2M is their platform.

The cause of justice for all survivors boils down to the case of the only man that has been accused so far: his name is Ahmed Isa. He was condemned to three years in jail in 2007 and will stand to appeal in spring 2009. Parallel to the proceedings against Ahmed Isa, criminal charges have been brought up by an ad hoc committee of human rights groups and other advocates of the survivors and relatives of the deceased against the two directly responsible ministers accusing them of creating the conditions that made the fire possible and for inhuman treatment of the survivors of the fire. The European Court of Human Rights has endorsed the accusations and this means that for the first time the authorities are brought to account. They have to reply to all points of the accusations. A proper administration of justice is of the highest importance for the well being of the survivors and indeed
for their lives.

The Dutch detention complex

More than three years after the Schiphol Fire no substantial change has been made in the migration politics: migrants are chased, locked up by the thousands and either deported or rotting a way like dead dogs in detention. The lesson learnt by the state is to build new and permanent facilities for detaing migrant, including special child friendly facilities for minors and mothers. At Rotterdam Airport and Schiphol these new prisons will replace the redundant temporary and substandard hangars and containers. Worse even, the Dutch deputy minister is succesfully promoting this Dutch approach as a model for the European Union: Italy, Spain and the UK have adopted the same regime and the EU has opted for a maximum period of one-and-a-half year of administratieve detention. So far Holland had no legal time limit.

Many people find it hard to believe that the Netherlands, a country that poses as a champion of human rights and international justice, is guilty of this systematic violation of human and civil rights. Not only undocumented migrants, also legal immigrants and complete communities and neighbourhoods are disturbed and disrupted by this state policy. It is a policy that goes hand in hand with the wave of xenophobia and anti-islamic nationalist parties. That is why M2M does not hesitate to call this region a frontline in the global struggle for the acceptance of migration as a fundamental freedom of man. Outlawing human beings is not only brutally humiliating, it undermines the core values and the basic rights that any civilized society is held to respect.

No borders between us! Cross the line. Break the silence!

Every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. People come to perform together in acts of witnessing, protest and solidarity at the fence of the detention complex at Schiphol Oost.

Address: Ten Pol, 1438 AJ Oude Meer (bus 187 from Schiphol Plaza)

The M2M Foundation promotes free communication of migrants.
Look with us, not at us.

e: m2m@streamtime.org

Donations to Postbank 3452284, Jo van der Spek, Amsterdam. Ref: M2M, Hungerstrike