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Belgium Calling: Solidarity for Julian, Dhuratha and Matéo

John O | 20.03.2008 17:51 | Migration | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

Once again we are appealing for international solidarity. This time, it is to secure the release of Julian, Dhuratha and three and a half year old Matéo Illiu from the nightmare they have been living, since the 30th October last year, in a detention centre in Steenokkerzeel in Belgium.

The parents are on hunger strike. Matéo, who has repeatedly fallen ill since being imprisoned, is following his parents' example by regurgitating everything he eats. Members of NGO Ligue des Droits de l'Homme, who visited the family on March 14th, found the little boy's condition to be extremely alarming. His father is determined to continue until the very end.

Please help us get Julian, Dhuratha and Matéo out of detention and secure their regularisation by signing the petition online at and by sending the model letter attached by fax or email to the Belgian Ambassador in London.

Matéo is ill; traumatised by his imprisonment, he has picked up several illnesses (gastroenteritis, continuous chest infections, etc.) and has been on antibiotics for many weeks. Since his parents began their hunger strike, Matéo has become unable to keep any food down and is getting weaker and weaker by the day, despite denials by the centre's doctor.

Dhuratha and Julian, from Albania, arrived in Belgium in 2003 following Dhuratha's persecution as a member of the Albanian Democratic Party. Arrested on several occasions, she had a violent altercation with a local politician (a dispute which was filmed) and suffered the reprisals; her opponent's henchmen burned down the family home.

Dhuratha fled her country to live in Belgium, where her sister is a regularised citizen. Her partner, Julian, joined her there under difficult circumstances a few months later. When they first arrived, they lived in a small, unsanitary house in a little Flemish village near the language border, rented to them by the village priest. Matéo was born in 2004, christened with a Flemish godfather and a Walloon godmother.

Since their arrival in Belgium, the Illiu family have become totally integrated: completely bilingual, Julian speaks both French and Dutch, cares for his family and considers Belgium as his country, wishing only to live a safe and dignified life there. As for Dhuratha, she has been juggling language courses with raising Matéo. The three are highly valued members of the community, with friends and neighbours all praising the family's kindness and Julian's hard work, determination and will to integrate.

Julian, a joiner, has been promised work in a field which is drastically understaffed. The Illius have been promised accommodation by the magistrate of Waremme. The family's friends have also guaranteed to help them to survive financially.

Such integration did not prevent the authorities from coming to arrest the Illius at their home in the middle of the night of 30th October 2007. Nine police officers for three people, including an infant ! What, one wonders, did this family do to be considered so delinquent that a squadron of police was deemed necessary to take them to the detention centre ?

With their asylum claim refused and the deadline for appeals passed, authorities attempted to deport the family seven days after their arrest. Julian refused to board the plane and the family were returned to the centre. Three weeks later, another attempt was made, during which Julian (who was still refusing to fly) was hit and insulted. A third attempt was aborted when Julian reapplied for asylum, though this was later rejected. A further application never received an answer from the Belgian home office.

Three removal attempts and a steadfast determination to deport this family despite the risks they face on returning to Albania… Must the desperation that drove Julian and Dhuratha to undertake a hunger strike push them to the worst eventualities just so that they may be shown some humanity? Julian - to the great concern of his friends - has decided to follow this hunger strike to its end. Matéo, so influenced by his parent's actions, has begun to emulate them.

The detention of this family who fulfill every criterion for regularisation (integration, bilingualism, professional qualifications recognised by Belgian authorities, the promise of work) is carried out in contempt of the most fundamental of human rights, most notably of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This three and a half year old child does not belong in detention - nor do his parents. Who will take on board the damage caused by imprisonment on the psyche of a three year old child?

We, friends, neighbours and supporters of Julian, Dhuratha and Matéo demand their release and regularisation. We call on all human rights defenders to join us in this appeal, that Matéo and his parents can be freed from this nightmare and live their lives safely in Belgium.

What you can do to help:
1) Fax Veranneman de Watervliet, Belgium Ambassador to the UK, asking that he convey to His Excellency Patrick Dewael, Belgium Minister of the Interior, your request that the Illiu family are released from detention and given regularization.

Fax: 020 7470 3795

Or write to:
H.E. Ambassador Veranneman de Watervliet
17 Grosvenor Crescent
London SW1X 7EE

2) There is an online petition that you can sign:
Appel Pour La Liberation Et La Regularisation De La Famille Illiu
Sign the petition online ;

Please inform RESF of any actions taken -

Inquiries further information: Nathalie Fessol 0032 473 51 59 23

Réseau Education Sans Frontières (RESF ) Belgium :

John O
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