Four employees of the Rotterdam detention center have recently been suspended. They are suspected of having used extreme violence against someone in custody at the center. The victim supposedly kicked his door and made a slamming movement, after which he was placed in seclusion. The man was then transferred to an isolation cell. The management of the detention center later received signals that the four employees had used far more violence against him than is permitted. It is not yet known how the victim is doing.
The Rotterdam detention center is a depressing place. The Dutch government locks up adult men here, who don't/ no longer have a residence permit. Compared to other European countries, the Netherlands imprisons a lot of people without a residence permit. There are, for example, Afghan young men whose asylum applications have been rejected, but also people who have been living in the Netherlands for 30 years but no longer have a residence permit. The men have one thing in common: they are not there to commit a criminal offense, but because the Dutch government wants to deport them.
Many of these people came to Europe to seek protection and a better future, but the regulations put them in an inhumane and hopeless situation. Locked up in the Rotterdam detention center, as if they were serious criminals while they had not done anything criminal.
It often is not possible to have these people return to their country of origin. After about half a year, the men are put back on the street with a train ticket to a destination in the Netherlands. It is no exception that they return to the detention center after a few months. The detention center is more scanty than most prisons in all respects.
The people in custody are locked up in their double cell between 12 and 13 pm, between 5 and 6 pm and after 10.30 pm. Men who refuse to stay in a double cell are placed in isolation. They are alone in there for 23 hours a day. In addition, there is far too little medical supervision in the detention center. Many men in the detention center are extremely anxious. Terrified at the idea of having to return to a dangerous country, afraid of the aggression of guards, but also of other men who are in custody.
Rotterdam BIJ1 is against locking up this vulnerable group of people. It should only be an extreme resort, but the government applies this power far too easily. BIJ1 is the party of radical equality and economic justice and solidarity. We have a deep belief in this radical equality and empathy with everyone who lives in violence and poverty. We want a radical human refugee policy. As far as we are concerned, we do not lock up people without residence status at all. Unfortunately, it is currently a national policy to do so.
The circumstances in the Rotterdam detention center are so bad that both Amnesty International and the National Ombudsman are sounding the alarm. The Ombudsman already concluded many of these problems in a report in 2012, but this month, he published another investigation report about the circumstances in the Rotterdam detention center. Once again, he came to the conclusion that much needs to be improved in the short term. He made some recommendations:
- He wants meaningful day-activities for the people there. It is incomprehensible to the Ombudsman that these people, who have not committed a criminal offense, are not allowed to work or to receive short-term useful training.
- The accommodation needs to be adjusted. These people should not be punished. In the short term, one must be given the opportunity to stay in a single-person cell.
- Seclusion of the prisoners must be treated with much more restraint, also in view of the psychological problems that seclusion causes.
- Seclusion may no longer be used as punishment for refusing to stay in a multi-person cell.
- There must be standard medical supervision for isolation.
Rotterdam BIJ1 finds it shocking that these recommendations have to be made in the first place. The current situation in the detention center is unacceptable. We condemn the extreme violence and want thorough research to be conducted. The situation of the detainees at the Rotterdam detention center must improve in the very short term!