On Saturday, December 24, progressive groups in Belgium protested at the Vottem detention center in Liège, denouncing the state’s unfair policy on migrants. The protest was organized by the Collective of Resistance to Centers for Foreigners (CRACPE). Hundreds of people including Wallonian MP Julien Liradelfo from the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) and activists from the PTB and the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB) participated in the protest. The protesters asked the federal government to close down migrant detention centers across the county and release and regularize the incarcerated migrants.
Progressives and migrants’ rights activists have gathered and protested in front of the Vottem detention center on every Christmas Eve over the last decade to express their opposition to the opening of the detention center in 1999. According to reports, following the demonstration at Vottem this year, protesters organized a candlelight vigil and representatives of CRACPE, along with lawmakers such as Liradelfo, interacted with the detained migrants (mostly from Afghanistan) and expressed solidarity with them.
CRACPE stated that “detention centers are prisons, nothing else, and their objective is to break the resistance of individuals to deportation, through psychologically and physically inhuman treatment, throughout detention, with violence that can be extreme at the very moment of expulsion.”
On December 25, Liradelfo said on social media, “As a PTB deputy, I was able to enter the Vottem center and meet the people detained simply because they have no papers. A touching and revolting moment. And many testimonies filled with distress.”
“Like that of the young ones who explained to me that being there is worse than in jail because they have no idea when they can get out and what is going to happen to them. Or that of the 30-year-old man who risks being deported to ‘his’ country, which he does not know because he has lived for years in Belgium, and whose language he does not even know,” Liradelfo added.
The Liège Committee of the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB/CPB) has said that “these detention camps are a disgrace and violate Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that ‘no one shall be arbitrarily arrested, detained or exiled’.”
On December 26, Julien Hannotte Morais from the PCB/CPB told Peoples Dispatch that “Every December 24, dozens of demonstrators from civil society and left parties gather in front of Vottem detention center to express, on Christmas Eve, their solidarity with the migrants arrested and detained there in terrible conditions. The participants denounce the inhuman migratory and asylum policies of the Belgian government, which plans to build more detention centers and expel more migrants.”