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Direct action against migration prisons in Brussels

noah bordas | 19.12.2011 12:25 | Migration | Repression | Social Struggles | World

Report of Sunday's demo against the new "Caricole" prison outside Brussels, and the ongoing campaign of direct action and practical solidarity.


cop lines at steenokk on sunday
cop lines at steenokk on sunday

Sunday 18 December, 2pm. About 100 people meet in the village of Steenokkerzeel, near Brussels airport, for the first public demonstration against "Le Caricole" the city's new migration prison. Called "the snail", the new detention center is built in the form of a spiral, like Jeremy Bentham's infamous "panopticon" where prisoners could be constantly monitored from a central observation point. It is just across the road from Brussels' existing migration prison 127bis, which was last set on flames by inmates in February.

"Le Caricole" is supposed to be opening any day soon. But it is already late by more than a year. According to a recent police statement, there have been at least 60 unexplained acts of damage on the construction site. Obviously it is impossible to say how many of this is really down to sabotage, or to what extent saboteurs have effectively held up construction. At the same time, some sources say that the old prison 127bis is still not back to "capacity" after February's fire and riots, which destroyed more than half the cells, leaving space for only 40 rather than 110 detainees. The incendiaries of February were harshly punished for their revolt, but their actions have helped keep others free.

Sunday's demo was all too brief. The crowd, brightly coloured banners, samba band and all, met outside the train station to find the road to Steenokkerzeel blocked by two lines of police: a first line in orange bibs, backed up by a second tight line in full riot armour, and behind them at the top of the hill more police vans including water cannon. Apparently Brussels police now station two of their water cannon trucks full time at Steenok. A senior cop read out an order from the local mayor banning the demonstration, ordering everyone to disperse onto the next train home or be arrested. Anyone crossing the first line of cops would face a summary 250 euro fine.

This is how Brussels police meet a peaceful crowd trying to demonstrate outside a detention centre. It looks like the authorities are scared. It is in fact true that previous demos at Steenokkerzeel have led to site occupations, property destruction, blockades, escapes, and indeed that big fire in February (started inside, but whilst a noisy solidarity demo took place just outside the fences, which authorities blame for "inciting" inmates ... as if people locked up in migration prisons don't have their own reasons to be incited already ...). On top of all that, police statements on Sunday also mentioned the danger that the "ultra-violent No Borders organisation" could cause a threat to "aerial traffic".

The police lines, on this occasion, appeared impenetrable. Some samba was played and danced to, some chants were chanted. One person announced aloud his intention to cross the "250 euro" line and receive his summary fine, which he did calmly. The police didn't seem to want to arrest him after all. Around 3pm the crowd took the train back to central Brussels.

The "Office des Etrangers", or Brussels' main Immigration Office, is located very close to the big Gare du Nord (North train station). According to Brussels indymedia, that afternoon the Immigration Office was attacked by "100 people masked and dressed in black." (It's possible that number may be a bit exaggerated.) "The windows were smashed, the walls were spraypainted, fireworks, smoke bombs and items of street furniture were thrown inside."

Perhaps just one more small act of sabotage against the regime of migration prisons in the "capital of europe" ... but these little acts of sabotage mount up. They are just a part of the countless little acts of practical solidarity between people, whatever scraps of bullshit legal paper we might carry, that "No Borders" is all about. Freedom of movement is not a state-given right, it's what we put into action.

"Ohé saboteur, attention à ton fardeau, dynamite ... C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères ..."
Saboteur, take care with your load, dynamite ... it's us who break the bars of the prisons, for our brothers (and sisters) ...

(from the "Chant des Partisans", hymn of the french resistance.)

Indymedia Brussels:
Direct accounts from inside Belgian migration prisons:

noah bordas