Living conditions in closed centres: stay, rights and obligations of occupants

Detention centres host foreign nationals of different nationalities and cultures. These foreign nationals are being held against their will with a view to their return. Living together is not always easy. However, the management strives to manage the inevitable tensions and situations that may arise and to ensure that the stay is calm and respectful of the rules.

The management not only ensures the safety of the residents and the centre, it also tries to make the residents ' lives as pleasant as possible during their stay at the centre.

1. Reception

As soon as a foreign national arrives in a closed centre, they are received and taken care of by the various teams. The teams identify the person, by taking a photograph and fingerprints, carry out a medical consultation to detect possible infectious diseases, determine the diet, inventory their possessions, search for and seize dangerous objects, etc.

2. Legal assistance

Legal assistance should be available to residents if they want it.  Contacts with lawyers must be facilitated. A free attorney is provided if the resident does not have financial resources.

3. Worship

The moral and religious regime is respected in the detention centres. As well as holding religious worship, the resident may call upon a priest, pastor, Imam, or counsellor representing a non-denominational school of thought to assist them.

Religious holidays and special ceremonies related to them are also respected.

4. Visits

The residents  have the right to receive visits from:

  • their family members daily for at least one hour a day
  • diplomatic or consular representatives of the State of which they are nationals between 8.00 am and 10.00 pm.
  • lawyers and interpreters who assist them every day between 8.00 am and 10.00 pm

Other persons may be allowed to visit with the prior authorisation of the centre's management. Visiting hours are specified in the welcome brochure for residents .

In addition to the authorities and institutions referred to in Articles 42 to 44 of the Royal Decree of 02/08/2002 which have the right to visit detention centres, representatives of associations or NGOs with accreditation also have access to these centres.

5. Communication with the outside world.

Residents  are able to phone outside and send and receive letters freely and confidentially. They also have access to the Internet.

6. Free time

Recreational, cultural, educational and sports activities are organised to relax the residents .

7. The library and media access

Each centre has a small library available to the residents. It includes a wide variety of works in different languages.

Television, DVD and video are also available, as is a selection of newspapers and magazines in several languages.

8. Food

Food is provided by an external company. The diet of the residents (e.g. vegetarian) is taken into account.  The staff shares the same meal as the residents.

9. Hygiene

Laundry is done partly on site by the centre's staff, especially the occupants' clothes, and a private firm takes care of the rest (sheets, pillowcases, blankets, etc.).

10. Disciplinary action

Disciplinary action may be taken against occupant resident if they intentionally deface property belonging to the centre or endanger the safety of other residents or staff members.

Any action taken against a resident must be justified.

The disciplinary measures applied are:

  • verbal warning
  • tasks related to the order and cleanliness of the centre
  • the removal of benefits, provided there is a direct or indirect link between the offence and the measure
  • placement in an isolation room.

The decision to place a resident in an isolation room can only be taken by the management of the centre; the maximum duration of the isolation is 24 hours. If the resident 's behaviour makes it impossible for them to be integrated into the group, the Director General may decide to extend this 24-hour period twice. Only the Minister can decide on the extension after this period.