Aliens more often placed in isolation: ‘People never get better from that’

Foreign nationals in detention centres are placed in isolation much more often than in previous years. The increase is remarkable because the Cabinet has previously promised to limit the measure.

According to the report by human rights organisations Amnesty, Dokters van de Wereld and Stichting LOS, the use of criminal isolation increased by more than 56 percent in relation to the number of foreign nationals who were detained. And that is a worrying development, says Annemarie Busser, researcher for Amnesty: “People do not sit there because they have to serve a sentence or because they have behaved badly in society. They’re just sitting there waiting to be deported.”

According to Busser, it’s important to remember that they’re not criminals. “You have to think about how you treat these people. How do you keep them ready for departure and that requires a regime that is very similar to that in ordinary prisons. “

Among other things, foreigners are isolated when they misbehave. In most cases, someone is incarcerated in the isolation cell for 23 hours. He can then ventilate for a maximum of one hour a day.

According to Busser, something like that can damage people. “Doctors and human rights organizations are very concerned about solitary confinement. Such isolation can be very damaging to vulnerable people. We hear that it can lead to depression, self-harm or even psychosis. So we’re very worried about that.”

Physical violence

The Judicial Institutions Service states that the increase in the number of placements in solitary confinement has to do with illegal labour migrants. The population is said to have changed with more young men from countries such as Albania and Morocco who have no chance of obtaining a residence permit. Almost all isolations also took place in Rotterdam, where the adult men are placed.

But according to Busser, it’s too simple to say that it’s just a ‘difficult population’. “I don’t want to deny those problems. But what we also see as an important reason for placing in isolation is that people refuse a multi-person cell. That’s the case with over a quarter of them.”

According to the researchers, the reason for refusing a cell with multiple persons may have to do with traumas from the past. “There are people who have had very bad experiences with this in the past. Some have also undergone physical violence in such a multi-person cell. So now they go into isolation in such a cell if necessary,” says Busser.

Another cause that emerges from the investigation is the threat of suicide. This is also the reason for confinement in solitary confinement for a quarter of them. In such a case, it’s an orderly measure.

But according to Busser, insulation is not a good idea anyway: “People never get better from insulation. Their behaviour certainly doesn’t improve either. It makes them sick.”