Deportations will make you free – the European concentration camps of the 21st century / Xpressed


Deportations will make you free – the European concentration camps of the 21st century

Map of the Detention Centres for Migrants. Click here for the full-size image of the map.

A highly profitable industry is found behind the Temporary Detention Centres for migrants (CIEs) in Spain and everywhere in Europe. From the companies building the facilities or providing catering services and health care, to the airline companies engaged in the assisted deportations of undocumented migrants. It often happens that executives of these companies also hold positions in decision-making bodies concerned with immigration issues or in powerful lobbies, thus putting themselves in a position to influence public policies in favour of their companies.

CIEs – Temporary Detention Centres for migrants

In Spain there are currently eight CIEs for undocumented migrants under the process of deportation. One would assume that, if a deportation is impossible, the detention, making no sense, would be stopped. However, according to Martínez Escamilla’s survey in the book “Women in Detention Centres”, in 2011 only 48% of people held in CIEs were eventually deported.

The creation of CIEs is based on a 1985 Law that provide the possibility of detention of persons that are under the process of deportation. Notwithstanding, this detention cannot have a punitive nature. These centres –basically operating in a legal vacuum and based only on internal rules– are under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and are run by the National Police. According to testimonies of people who have been detained in these places, but also according to reports by human rights organisations, these centres are in reality prisons.

The allegations of abuse of the inmates are numerous: screams, insults, punishments, abuses and unannounced deportations, whereas since 2011 three deaths have also been recorded.

The most recent death occurred on December 3rd, when 42 year-old Armenian Aramis Manukyan hanged himself in the CIE of Barcelona. Other inmates denounced that the guards had tortured him and then had put him in solitary confinement, from where his cries could be heard for hours before he put an end to his life.

On January 6th 2013, Idrissa Diallo, 21 years old, met a tragic death, in the same centre. According to witnesses, he had repeatedly complained about severe pain and breathing problems but no one paid any attention nor was there any translator. When medical assistance arrived, it was too late.

On December 19th 2011, Samba Martine died without having ever been diagnosed. Samba had a 9 year old daughter.

Assisted deportations – the flights of shame

One of the most controversial practices currently in Europe is the deportation of undocumented migrants. Antigonia, in their presentation at the antifascist festival in Barcelona in November, opened to us a grim window into this dirty and unseen process.

In Spain, being without documents is considered an administrative offence and yet the detention in a CIE and the assisted deportation is a common practice.

Deportations are being carried out either on commercial flights when it comes to one or two people, or on special flights chartered exclusively for this purpose, when there are several people to be deported. In both cases, the airlines involved are particularly popular to the public, such as Air France, Iberia etc.

The second case requires a careful and detailed organisation and preparation. The European country that wants to deport undocumented migrants has to cooperate with the government of the country to which the deportation is destined. For example, according to the Spanish Campaign for closing down the CIEs, for a flight from Madrid to Senegal, the Ministry of Internal Affairs must charter a plane, find an isolated runway, arrange the transportation to the airport of migrants from various cities, allocate a significant number of police officers to safeguard the operation, coordinate with the Senegalese authorities and, of course, most importantly, secure the human cargo which will fill the flight.

The testimony of a Senegalese man, who was deported in this way and whom the Campaign managed to locate in Senegal, is shocking. When he arrived at Barajas airport in Madrid, he realised the size of the operation. Dozens of his countrymen were forced to wait under guard in an airport waiting room. Some of them came from the CIE of Aluche. Others had been transferred from the CIEs of Barcelona and Valencia.

However, there were cases of migrants who had been arrested the previous days and who came directly from police stations. Serigne from Dakar tells us that one of his friends was arrested in Valencia, just next to his house, when he went out to buy bread. Mbacke recounts his own drama: he was caught after he had just sent money to his mother, on his way by bike to work, picking cucumbers and peppers in the fields. Other Senegalese were caught in Malaga, Zaragoza, Alicante, Mallorca, Almería, Salou… There were also cases of people arrested and deported when they went to apply for or renew their papers!

The cases of violence by the police are frequent and there are videos documenting such incidents on mixed flights. Nobody knows what is happening on the specially chartered flights. In July 2007, the Nigerian Osamuyi Aikpitanyi was suffocated to death during the assisted deportation flight from Spain to Nigeria, after his guards duct-taped his mouth. Nearly five years later, the police officers responsible for his death were fined with €600 and were otherwise acquitted from any liability for his death.

Due to the confluence of the state and the security companies –but also to the toleration of all of us– the already long list of people who have lost their lives in the hands of European authorities will keep growing…..


Antigonia suggest the following actions for anybody who finds themselves in such a flight:


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