Testimony by a man in the group of people deported to Guinea
Interview (also as audio): here
Hello, you were deported on the collective flight in April 2013, weren’t you? Can you tell us what happened?
Yes I was. Well, it happened on the Tuesday. I didn’t even know I had a flight. So, on Tuesday around 1 p.m. the guards came into my room to tell me that I had been called to the office. I didn’t know why. I was on hunger strike so I thought that might be the reason.
Was it in the 127bis detention centre?
Yes it was. I stood up and followed them into the office where I found my assistant. One guard shut the door and my assistant said ‘OK, you are travelling tomorrow, you have a special flight.’ I answered ‘but why a special flight, why must I leave tomorrow, I have been here for all this time, and you did not inform me?’
She said that’s how things were, and that they would send me to another isolated room where I would have to stay until the following day.
– ‘I’ll go and get my luggage so we can go wherever you want me to go.’
– ‘No I’m afraid you can not go back to your room, we will deal with that ourselves.’
I insisted ‘but listen, I’ll go and fetch my clothes, there is no problem, I’ll take what’s in the wardrobe and that’s it!!’.
– ‘No, tonight you are coming with us, one way or another…’
– ‘Listen, you’re going to take me with you, but I’m not going there of my own free will…’
They sent me to a room where I was undressed, naked, they checked I wasn’t hiding anything. They saw there was nothing. Then they sent me to another room where there was another guy. Actually, they sent all the people from the other centres – Vottem, Bruges, Antwerp- to the detention centre here.
We spent the night there. I stayed for a while in that room with the guy. Then the social assistant came to show us the video explaining deportations on a special flight.
I watched the video. I asked them if I could ring my country to check if someone would be waiting for me at the airport because I didn’t know where to go at all once back there.
They said ‘OK, no problem, we’ll give you a telephone, you will call later’. Then they said that I could not call them from Belgium but from Guinea only. I asked several times but they kept saying ‘wait, you will call, don’t worry’. I insisted each time until they told me at some point ‘No, the telephone is broken, you can not call anyone anymore…’.
Then the guards supposedly went to arrange my luggage… They took whatever… because when they arrested me at the Immigration Office I had nothing, only what I was wearing plus pants… They took everything and put it in my bag.
The day after they came to wake me up, they took the sheets etc. They were taking one person at a time. When my turn came, we went downstairs to meet the policemen who were going to escort us. They brought us to a small room where we got undressed, naked, again, supposedly because I could still be hiding something despite having spent the night with them and they had searched me the day before!!!!
I undressed, they did not find anything. Then they handcuffed me like everyone else. They sent me to the bus with two policemen, then to the airport. A police car came and we were escorted as if we had committed a crime. We left for the airport, they made us get out of the car one by one to go to the plane. Once in the plane, you are put in the middle, two policemen sit either side of you, a third one across the aisle just in case one of them needs to go to the bathroom he can be replaced. So, three policemen per person.
Were you still handcuffed?
Yes we were. When the plane began to move, I often asked until when we would remain handcuffed. One policeman said ‘we’ll wait for the take off, it is the big boss who decides…’ He showed me the big boss and told me it is him who would decide, they can not do anything… maybe when the lights of the security belt are switched off…’. We stayed like that for one, even two hours with our handcuffs on the plane. Then they removed them to give us food. When we landed in Conakry, at around 3 p.m., there was someone representing Guinea, maybe from the government, I don’t know.
Each person was called, you hear your name and you go. Men in uniforms were waiting for us downstairs, aligned in two ranks, we had to pass through the middle and enter the bus that was there for us. Once everybody was in the bus, they drove us to the national airport because we did not exit at the international airport, they sent us to the other side. We stayed there in a room for a while, then they said let’s go and we went to recover our luggage.
Did they give the asylum requests to the authorities?
No they didn’t. The things we had sent, they gave them back to us on the plane. For me for example, they gave me back the proof I had sent on the plane, with the telephone we had, etc. before we got off the plane. They did not control that. I think everything had been clarified to make it seem like the government did not know anything.
A few days later I was listening to the radio, a government representative said he did not know anyting about the special flight from Belgium to Guinea.
However there were people waiting for us when we arrived…
Then you got released and everyone went back home?
Yes, they released us, one by one… I think nobody could inform anyone to be there to welcome them at the airport.
And some of the others got into trouble, didn’t they?
No, this I don’t know anything about…
When we came out of there, we all split up. I think there was no retaliation because the government certainly had to have an argument… in order for the people not to know they are busy repatriating nationals. Therefore, they preferred to let us go like that, so they can really protect themselves. After that I listened to the radio and they were saying they really didn’t know anything about this flight… however, when one knows the procedure, one can see everything was extremely well arranged. When you go to the embassy with no identity card, no name card… and the ambassador allows you to get a pass, it means that all has been pre-arranged… so if they say they do not know anything… at least we understood why there was no retaliation when we arrived, because we were extremely worried about that…
And were some of you mistreated before the departure?
Yes they were. At least they were determined to mistreat some but… in the end I don’t know if there was violence because they sent us one after the other so I don’t know what happened to the others. When they come to pick you up, you are alone. In the small room where you get undressed there are policemen, then when you leave that room you go to the bus, so the one who follows me… I don’t know what is going to happen to him… unless you tell your friend what happened to you, you will never know.