23.03.2020 – On the situation in custody pending deportation
After Protest in deportation camp in Darmstadt, the situation of many arrested people remains unclear. A talk with Dorothea Köhler
On March 14, prisoners in custody pending deportation (Abschiebehaft) in Darmstadt opposed instructions of the prison staff for several hours and refused to enter the cells. How did that protest come about?
The COVID-19 pandemia is the number one topic, everywhere. A lot of people are scared and have been preparing themselves for the public life to come to a halt. Travels and flights are cancelled, the borders are closed. And now imagine you are in custody pending deportation – plus Corona. During their one-hour yard exercise, the refugees decided not to go back to their cells. They wanted to talk to the prison warden. They wanted them to procure their release. According to the protesters’ statements, the staff showed interest in that matter. They, too, wanted to leave sooner rather than later.
One of the deputy wardens was said to have agreed on an early release. What is that all about?
That day, the prisoners were promised that the deputy warden in question would support the release of everybody. However, it was said that this was up to the committing magistrate. There were prisoners who were released but there are no transparent decisions.
There are reports about breaches of law in these deportation prisons again and again. What do you observe in this facility?
The last massive breach of law was the incarceration of a transwoman in a men’s prison about two weeks ago. Obviously, there is less and less concern about rights of any kind. This way, large numbers of deportations can be achieved and isolation can be pushed on. This is also visible at the Turkey-Greece border: asylum laws are suspended and the European Commission is applauding it. The prisoners have been complaining about insufficient medical care. Only recently they got access to minimal psychiatric support, which always depends on the assessment of the staff. It becomes obvious that it is absolutely necessary to stay in touch with the prisoners and to scandalize and attack the prison over and over again.
Deportations are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. What does this mean for asylum procedures?
The temporary suspension of deportation flights might be one of the few positive consequences of the virus. Unfortunately, there are no clear statements about what is going to happen. This is why many refugees continue to live in fear and uncertainty. Interviews for asylum and withdrawal procedures are partially suspended. We assume that decisions will be delayed. Unfortunately, structures that usually support and give advice to refugees are limited due to the emergency situation. It is important to counteract that and sustain as much support as possible. We absolutely need solidarity networks.
Which steps are necessary now?
If the measures against COVID-19 are taken seriously, all deportations must be suspended. Then all deportation prisons can be closed down. Furthermore, we demand that refugees are accommodated in decentralized accommodation and get access to regular health care. Immediately. After the right-wing terrorist attack in Hanau, there were a lot of speeches against racism. Those who really want to do something about racism have to press for the end of the discrimination of refugees, the isolation and the disgraceful conditions at Europe’s external borders.
Interview: Henning von Stoltzenberg.
Here you find the original articel, published in jungeWelt on 23.03.20: