Situation of asylum seekers in detention untenable

27 August 2011

Situation of asylum seekers in detention untenable

Last Thursday upwards of forty activists in Rotterdam’s detention centre made it clear that their hopeless situation as foreign detainees awaiting asylum is utterly untenable. The asylum seekers who used a sit-in to draw attention to their plight have no prospect of deportation, find themselves locked up more and more often and for longer periods and are subject to a real prison regime. ‘We are being treated like criminals,’ says one of the activists, Joeri Zaloilo. SP Member of Parliament Sharon Gesthuizen is urging rapid improvements to the situation and has asked the government for its views.

Sharon GesthuizenThe people participating in the peaceful sit-in were subject to rough handling by the internal security guards who separated them. A large number of those involved were put into solitary confinement, where some will remain for as long as two weeks. Gesthuizen describes such a disciplinarian regime as shocking and out of all proportion. “Even violent prisoners never receive such harsh punishment when they cause problems,” she says. “These people stood up in a peaceful manner for their right to a dignified existence, one without fear or insecurity. The reaction to this is unworthy of the Netherlands.” Referring to the minister responsible for asylum and immigration, she adds that “Leers has, moreover, given countless promises that he would be improving the situation of these refugees, yet they continue to be treated like criminals.”

Previously the SP had already drawn attention to the problems surrounding detention centres for asylum seekers. Minister Gerd Leers promised at the time to look into alternatives. These alternatives have yet to see the light of day, however. Reason enough for the SP to remind Leers of the need to keep his promises, and quickly.

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