Emeute à Merkplas après le suicide d’Ebenizer Sontsa
Detained migrants riot in Belgium
By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels, May 2, 2008
Migrants at a detention centre in Belgium have rioted after an illegal immigrant from Cameroon was found hanged there on Thursday.
Detainees at the centre broke down doors and set fire to TV sets, the _ director of the centre told the BBC.
The migrant’s lawyer said the man had been mistreated by the police during a failed repatriation attempt last week.
It is the latest case raising concerns about the treatment of illegal immigrants in Belgium.
EU rights ruling
The 29-year-old man from Cameroon was discovered in a toilet hanged with his bed sheets.
Police failed in their attempt to put him on a Brussels Airlines flight last Saturday.
A passenger who protested against the repatriation was temporarily arrested and banned from flying with the airline for six months.
The director of the detention centre, in the northern town of Merksplas, would not confirm the Cameroon man’s identity but said he had been seen by a doctor after the failed repatriation attempt.
An inquiry is under way to determine if the police used violent means to restrain the man onboard the flight.
A spokesman for the airline told the BBC that involuntary repatriations were a regular occurrence on flights to Africa and illegal immigrants often screamed to attract the attention of other passengers.
Belgium is very sensitive to accusations involving deportations after a young Nigerian woman, Semira Adamu, was suffocated by the police with a pillow 10 years ago to stifle her cries.
Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Belgium to pay more than $20,000 (£10,000 ; 13,000€) to two Palestinian asylum-seekers for what it called inhuman and degrading treatment while they were waiting to be deported at detention centres.