The Caricole, as seen from the inside

The Caricole

Translation in English from

No, what follows is not a description of a futuristic film set.

No, what follows is not a description of a well-hidden spot in remote areas of totalitarian countries.
No, what follows is not the result of a fantasy.
What follows is located in Belgium, a country that calls itself welcoming and respectful toward human rights.
This is a description as neutral as possible …

Once upon a time, there was a government that decided,  some ten years ago, to construct a building in which it could, out of all sight, lock up human beings who presented themselves at the airport without appropriate documentation. This land of plenty called Belgium, located in the heart of Fortress Europe, was granted the “right” to choose who had the “right” to stay there, and who had not.

Thus, this government, pushed by the nationalist party right – the Vlaams Blok – decided to build a “center”, to cram all these strangers who were screened on arrival. The center is owned by BIAC (Brussels International Airport Company), a private company, and rented by the Board of Buildings (the State leases the space from a private company to lock up people in a territory that is not really Belgium but no man’s land ..)

Today, great! finally completed, the center has been baptized “Caricole” because of its circular shape (to disorient the occupants?), has entered reality.

Situated next to its colleague 127bis,  that encloses people waiting for deportation (Repatriation Center), the Caricole is accessible from the airport directly through an airlock. It looks great in the gray fields, all circular with its wooden panels that already look rotten. But to see these signs, it takes a little blink, as the building is surrounded by fences: black, solid, frightening, about 4 feet high, bristling. Moreover, it is, to be completely secure, surrounded by a ditch not yet filled with water …. An armada of surveillance cameras, surveillance …

A few meters from the runways of the airport of Brussels National, it has a theoretical capacity of 90 places.

But, be assured, inside you can hear nothing of coming and going airplanes; it is very well soundproofed. In this brand new building, everything inside is pure white.

Currently fifty “residents” are being held.

The staff is composed of a hundred people depending on OE, and for food and cleaning a score of people employed by private companies.

Everything is planned, everything is organized, interview rooms for meetings with lawyers, visitors’ room in which “residents” can be visited – not only face to face, but in a large room that currently has five tables with 6 chairs, there’s even a nice play area for children, everything is planned. Ceiling, walls and doors: everything is white. Visits are possible from 14 to 16 hours.

Staff nearly completely consists of social workers and associates, nurses and doctors available to residents.

Here, contrary to what was experienced in other centers: no uniforms – people who occupy themselves with detainees are all in civilian clothes. It’s not about guards, but escorts. They speak several languages.

A monitoring station with multiple screens, monitors in real time around the center and its entrances.

Spaces are provided for the “intake” for residents, translate the reception. Here they are provided with information sheets in several languages. There is a medical check-up, including a standard, if necessary special examinations are undertaken, This is also where the “fit to fly” certificates are given, translated, ready to be expelled …. There is a locker allowing them to put their property into store, a mobile phone is given to them in which they can use their personal card. If they  want to call their lawyer or their OE, it is possible for free. They have a personal badge for access to their room. They can freely walk around the building, they may even go into the yard between 7:30 and 22:30.

These yards are not huge, about 2 x 60 m2. Other spaces, for football or basketball, are accessible only when accompanied – fences outside.

Everything is white, except the corridor indicating the color of “wing” – blue, orange, brown, … everything is the same because we are in the circular ….

But what would a center be without its isolation cell?  Approximately 3m by 4, only furniture: a block bed and a toilet. The “windows” makes you thinks you of death as they are two and are approx. 10 cm wide and 1.50 m high. While overlooking the empty fields ..

There are other rooms, library, ping pong room and fitness facilities, internet access for matters concerning asylum, recreation room … opening hours indicated at the doors, and all other indications for that matter, in Dutch only. That no man’s land territory, is it Flemish?

There are two large rooms for relaxation, free access, one has a television and a pool table, there is also a smoker’s room. Both halls are under surveillance, since a glass area between the two is occupied by attendants, the other space is as a counter, you can ask anything like tea for instance.

The rooms are also white, 2, 4 or 6 places, they were provided for families but the law currently prevents this, except occasionally for a night before eviction. The rooms are accessible during daytime, they have a TV that is on between 7 and 10am and between 19 and 23h. They have a bathroom with WC.

Meals are taken communally, a canteen, self-service, decent food, acoustic is disastrous, as elsewhere around the center.

So this is a description of the place. It does not speak of the sentiments of those therein confined. However organized and accepted it may be, the Caricole is in fact nothing more then a place, isolated from outside glances, with detainees who are held pending their application to be processed for weeks … not to be perceived by the world outside except for the airplanes and the fields behind the fences and well closed windows.


video of blocade action