The Netherlands: Administrative detention, chasing refugees and the case of the hunger strikers

EUSSRThe Netherlands, once a showcase for tolerance, is quickly degrading into a country where human rights are just a vague memory from the past.

Refugees in search for a safe haven find themselves being locked up indefinitely in a prison regime. Independent medical attention is being made as difficult as possible.

Politics crushes basic human rights and it actually seems like a large group of the voters – fed by classical conditioning that every refugee is a criminal and a parasite – supports the inhumane treatment which suggests apartheid is still deeply rooted and never left.

In this article some of the events of the last weeks are being told.

When refugees arrive by plane, they get to be detained right away. The case of Ina from Mali is an example of how this process works. Ina escaped from a horrible life in Mali and arrived at Schiphol airport with her passport. Immigration services confiscated her papers and she was put in prison for seven months. Once in court for her asylum procedure, immigration services stated Ina made up her story and destroyed her passport herself after they had returned it to her. Supposedly Ina signed a receipt for getting back her passport. Immigration services’ lawyer wasn’t able to produce the receipt and the judge ordered for her to be released.

Non-deportable
Since several years the police are chasing down persons who have been declared illegal in a policy called the ‘illegal quota’. 4800 Persons a year need to be caught and put in prison. Note that these people’s only crime is that our government doesn’t want them.

Private security firm G4S delivers wardens to all Dutch detention centres.

The facilities in the detention centre are more or less at the same level as in an ordinary prison with one of the differences being the refugees are not supplied with a daily activity program.

A large group of people, including women and children is being detained. The persons inside are from very various backgrounds, but the majority is ‘non-deportable’ for several reasons.

These people are trapped in a revolving door of getting detained for 18 month periods maximum a time while there is no chance of deportation.

Being locked up and getting into the same situation over and over again has led a group of detainees to starting a hunger strike with some of them even on thirst strike; food and drinks consumption being the only thing left they have some control over. They’re not asking for much. For most of them getting a permit to stay in The Netherlands is not the goal. All they want is to be treated as humans; in their own words, they want freedom and protection. Justice secretary of State Teeven has made it clear he already thinks our immigration system is very humane even though it breaches human rights laws (rulings by European human rights court) and The Netherlands is again mentioned in the Amnesty year report.

Medical care and the case of mister Bah
One of the hunger strikers of the first hour is mister Bah. Mister Bah, sick and tired of being in the revolving detainee door, entered into hunger strike and afterwards also into thirst strike. His goal is not to get a permit to stay; he just wants to be treated as a human being.

Bah is an intelligent person who knows international law and understands that international treaties are clear on putting hunger strikers in solitary confinement. All research that’s been done on solitary confinement points out that it has severe negative consequences for the detainee but also for society once they’re set free.

Being on hunger strike alone is definitely not a sufficiently valid reason for isolation.

In detention centre Rotterdam – according to several accounts from inside – hunger strikers are being put in solitary confinement and methods like sleep deprivation are being applied to break their hunger strike.

It’s important to mention refugee Dolmatov died in this detention centre and Teeven almost lost his job because of that. Another dead refugee would mean the end of his career.

Mister Bah searched the press to tell the world what’s going on inside. His contact with the press led to a television program and questions of members of parliament.

Hunger strikers have a right to a trusted doctor of their own choice. Several of them asked for doctor Bonsen who was already known by some of them because of her work for undocumented persons.

The detention centre denied her access. After repeatedly trying to gain access to the patients, the doctor went to court for intervention.

During the court case she was promised her team of trusted doctors would gain access by following a simple procedure consisting of the hunger striker giving her name to the management of the detention centre and them making contact with her.

The next day this procedure was followed but still access was denied. Management had changed the procedure again.

From now on hunger strikers would need to contact their lawyer every day over again to request for their doctor. The lawyer would have to get permission from the management and only then the doctor would gain access.

It’s important to note that not everybody on hunger strike has a lawyer which means independent medical aid is out of reach for this group.

Mister Bah in the meantime had been transferred to a medical detention centre because of his weak health being on thirst strike and still on hunger strike as well.

Mister Bah stopped with his hunger- and thirst strike after he was promised he would not be placed in solitary confinement. Once he was transferred back to the detention centre he was presented with a document to sign stating that he chooses to be placed in solitary confinement. He refused to sign and was presented with a special intervention team of about 10 persons who threw him into isolation by force. He was handcuffed, stripped naked and put down on his belly on the floor. He immediately restarted his hunger- and thirst strike.

The next day doctor Bonsen visited mister Bah and noted a physically very weak man with bruises on his body consistent with violent force usage.

She made arrangements to see him again the next day but again she was denied access to her patient. She was only able to visit him after intervention from his lawyer. On arrival the doctor was forced to sign a document stating she was not allowed to take photographs of the patient or discuss anything seen inside with people outside which she signed under protest.

Once she finally saw mister Bah, she was not allowed to see his medical file and had to use a room with no privacy because of glass windows. The detention centre is equipped with a medical room but she was denied access.

On Monday the 20th the doctor tried to get in touch with mister Bah and is told by management she will be called back. After waiting for several hours, she contacts his lawyer who can’t make contact either. At 15:00 hours his lawyer is called that mister Bah will be transported to the prison in Vught.

Prison Vught is the most heavily guarded prison in The Netherlands where the biggest criminals are placed. The lawyer is told that there has been a violent incident. Mister Bah (extremely weakened by hunger and thirst strike) apparently is a threat to perfectly healthy and trained guards.

Again the doctor is not allowed to visit her patient who gets transferred the next day to the medical detention centre because of his deteriorating health condition.

Once she finally sees him, she notes that he has been beaten; he is severely bruised and has two cuts in his face consistent with his account that a guard with a ring on his finger beat him up with his fist. In isolation there is 24/7 camera inspection, so Bah wants the tape to be released as proof. Management conveniently states that at that exact time, the camera was not running.

The doctor is still not allowed to make photographs which paves the path for the justice secretary of state to claim he wasn’t beaten at all.

At this point the doctor decides to press charges against the detention centre for physical abuse and obstruction of medical aid.

The story of mister Bah has gained a lot of publicity. At this point nobody knows how many people exactly are on hunger strike and/or thirst strike, also nobody knows what’s really going on in these detention centres. The justice department examines itself, so clearly there’s no independent research being done.

In the mean time the justice department filed for a quick research by the State Council (consisting mostly of former politicians) on force feeding hunger strikers. This council thinks to have found some loophole in the European human rights manifest and stated force feeding is allowed even though the United Nations have declared it torture.

Leaked email correspondence shows they were already actively searching for doctors willing to perform the act.

Meanwhile people are being deported to for instance Afghanistan while being too weak to fly as in the case of hunger striker mister Ghafuri who was deported last Saturday. The day before the deportation again a visit from doctor Bonsen got obstructed which meant she had to go to court where a judge granted her last minute access to examine mister Ghafuri who was already behind customs.

She found a man who wasn’t able anymore to speak in a coherent manner suggesting psychosis but also his blood sugar was extremely low.

Low blood sugar level which may cause heart failure while in the air with no medical staff present.

Unfortunately the judge decided he was fit to fly based on the fact that the government had several medical doctors declaring him stable, none of which actually examined him. Doctor Bonsen was the first to measure his blood sugar level.

People are not even given the chance to recuperate from hunger and/or thirst strike.

A good indicator of the level of civilisation in a country is how a country treats refugees. In The Netherlands it’s safe to say respect for basic human rights doesn’t apply to refugees, a tendency unfortunately seen throughout the Western nations.

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