Police violence and harsh detention conditions at the CRA in Nîmes
Published on 20 May 2022 – Marseilleanticra.noblog
Four people locked up in the Nîmes administrative detention centre recount the very complicated situation they are currently in.
In the administrative detention centre of Nîmes (CRA) the sanitary conditions are catastrophic, especially at the moment due to two simultaneous epidemics of scabies and coronavirus. The police do everything they can to make hygiene a problem: buildings are left dirty, water is cut off to prevent inmates from washing, and they refuse to consider inmates’ requests (e.g. about bedbugs). Police officers forbid them to do anything, arbitrarily cancel certain visits, insult the inmates, provoke them and constantly beat them. The doctors, the Forum Réfugiés (the legal association of the CRA) and the court lawyers do nothing and clearly work for the police and to facilitate the deportations, which are also very violent. One detainee confirmed that deportations happen even without a PCR test (in Tunisia). When people on the inside get indignant about insults from the police, when they are sick or after a suicide attempt, they are sent to the isolation cell of the CRA, without giving them anything.
B. We are here, we are in trouble, frankly. We have scabies, the crown, we have no water, they cut it off. You know what I mean? We’re in deep shit. They come in and everything, you’re not allowed to have luggage, you’re not allowed…. Even with your money, you go to the gas station, you want to buy something, but you can’t, you know? Honestly, in the shit.
You send a document for the thing, the Forum [Forum Réfugiés], and they don’t give it to you until you go to court [the Juge des libertés et de la détention, JLD]. After that they give you the paper…. Frankly, it’s complicated.
Q. Q.: Isn’t the Forum doing its job?
B.: There is no one doing their job here! It’s not just Forum, there is no one doing their job. Everyone, even the supervisor here, told me: ‘It’s not us, it’s the director, he agrees’, you know? He hit my colleague, broke his foot. Once we get out [of the cell], the guard hits: there are no surveillance cameras. He lets 3-4 people in and that’s how they hit.
We don’t have access to water, do you want to send a letter for your family, for the Forum…? You are not allowed to do anything, you know?
Q. How did it go when the cops beat you up?
Prisoner 2: Honestly, they gave my colleague a full search and everything, they didn’t find anything on him and everything. He started talking to the police, in a normal way, saying: ‘Here, let me go back to my room, I’m done, let me go back to my room’. The policeman took my colleague, started beating him and everything. He took him alone. A moment before he left, he looked at me and another colleague. He left my colleague, on the ground. He started beating him. Above him there were three people [policemen] who started beating him. He was arrested! 48 hours without food, without cigarettes, without anything.
Later he went to court [to file a complaint against the policemen] but the judge, what did he say? He said: ‘I don’t have a report that says it is true, there is no doctor’s report. The doctor is with the police.
Afterwards, he drew up the medical certificate. He asked: he cannot walk on one foot, the doctor made a certificate of 1 day [recovery time]. The boy does not walk on one foot. His foot is broken! He has to be taken to the Carémeau hospital in Nîmes, do you understand? The boss here disagreed.
Q. He didn’t make a report saying that the policemen broke his foot.
B. B.: That’s it. They didn’t even bring him crutches to walk. He took two boys to walk beside him. Even a lady in his family brought crutches and they told her, “You are not allowed to have crutches inside”. Do you understand?
Q. Yeah. And the person who was in custody for 48 hours, why was she in custody?
B. Not at all! They are the ones who decide to do police custody. You ask for something for yourself, you ask to go to the luggage and you go to custody. You ask a second time, a third time and three policemen come. They start beating you and put you in custody for 24 hours, 48 hours, they don’t care about you. You stay there like a dog. The dog is treated better than us.
Q. And what happens during police custody?
B. B.: Here, in the centre.
Q. OK. Is there a police station downtown?
B. It’s not a police station like…. It’s a police station in the CRA, like in a lockdown. You’re all alone. Like in police custody, you’re all alone, but there’s no TV, there’s no bedding, there’s nothing. You sleep on the floor.
Everyone’s here. There are hospital appointments, appointments outside. Once, you see you have to make your appointment: “My appointment is here, can I go out for my appointment? He says: ‘Yes, yes’, and on the day of the appointment nothing.
Frankly, it’s a disaster, it’s a mess. You are entitled to nothing, nothing, nothing. Today I had a visit, they wouldn’t accept it. My family came to see me and they said no.
Q. Are they abolishing visits just like that, at random?
B. B.: It is their decision. Frankly, it is complicated. What did they want? We don’t understand! It’s better in prison than here, it’s better than doing this! Even the police provoke you to hit someone. But for us it’s not like hitting a cop, you know?
They brought me back with a certificate of positivity. This is the covid. When someone has covid, they normally have to be alone for 10 days. They just brought me back the certificate I had covid, I went to the [JLD] court [on the second day of detention], after two days they put me with the others. I said: ‘Why don’t I go to court and all that? He told me: ‘Yes, you have covid and everything tatatata’. I spent 30 days [of detention] for nothing, I didn’t see the judge. I didn’t even see the judge on the video, on TV. Usually, if you have covid, if you are sick, you watch the judge on TV, you know? The video here, in the CRA.
Q. Q.: And you, do you have walks or not? [At the CRA in Nîmes, the inmates in the “family” building haven’t walked for months].
B. B.: The walks are dirty. They never clean. We ask for a broom to clean, but they don’t give it to us.
The bedrooms are dirty. We asked for cleaning products: they wouldn’t give them to us, until everyone got scabies.
Q. Q.: And as for the violence of the police officers, do you want to lodge a complaint?
B. Well, of course. It’s not just me. There are 100 people who want to file a complaint.
Q. Have you asked Forum?
B. Forum, they work with them! I’ve been asking for a week, brother, but they won’t take me to Forum, you know? Frankly, the situation sucks. Sometimes you talk to Forum and they say: ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes’. Then there’s nothing. I’ve been here for a month and a half, I’ve been asking for a month and a half, they never let me do anything.
Q. And the CRA, do they send people to prison? For example if you refuse the test or something like that?
A. I took two tests. On the third test, he usually told me: ‘Either prison or you go back to your country’.
B. B.: They sent three of my Moroccan colleagues. They arrived at 3am: PAM PAM! [They handcuffed them and taped them up, then deported them without any tests, without anything.
Q. Without a test?
B. B.: They are the ones who tampered with the test. Didn’t take the test, didn’t take the vaccine…. Bound, handcuffed and beaten! Imagine, they bring someone back at 3 o’clock in the morning. With duct tape, handcuffs… It’s 1998! It’s 2022. We’re in France now.
Q. And A., who wanted to be part of the CRA in Lyon and was forcibly sent to the CRA in Nîmes, why did they do that?
B. B.: Well, I don’t know. They don’t say anything. You ask for your rights… Your wife comes to the visiting room to see you, and they say, “No, she didn’t come”. And I was talking to my wife, she was outside, they didn’t want to let her in. We don’t have any rights!
A. There is no right to bring cakes.
B. B.: You are not allowed to bring something to eat from outside. We do not understand their work. Honestly, you don’t talk like that! They talk to you as if you were not supposed to be in France.
A. Marine Le Pen is there.
B. The 30, the Gard, you don’t understand anything. Nîmes, it’s a special law. OK, you don’t have the right to documents and all that, but in the centre there you have the right to ask for a room for visits, you have the right to have someone to bring you something to eat, you have the right to go to hospital because you have scabies, you have the coronavirus, there’s someone who has to have an operation, there’s everything, you understand? They say: ‘No, you are not allowed.
Q. Yes, in Nîmes the policemen seem to be very strict.
B. It’s a shithole centre in Nîmes. I’m sorry, I’m talking like this, but it’s a shit centre.
A. I never got scabies, I got it in Nîmes.
B. B.: They are all sick! If you go to the bathroom, there is no water, what does that mean? My family lives in Nîmes, near the centre, there is water. Here we don’t have any. At mealtimes, they turn on the water and at the end of the meal they turn it off. They do it on purpose, you see? In the morning they open the water at 7 o’clock and at 8 o’clock they stop it. Then they start opening the water in the middle of the day and at 1.30 there is no more water. So there is no showering.
A. So that you stay as dirty as a dog.
B. Dogs are better than us, wollah. I much prefer prison. You can’t even get a coffee here! You have money, you want to buy a coffee, but no. A week’s punishment, 10 days, 15 days…
Q. Q.: Is it so difficult in all the CRA buildings?
B. B.: There are four buildings, there are four similar zones… no, there are five zones: B1, B0, C1, C0, there is A for women. Well, they are all the same.
So we want a solution, it’s better to have a solution that is not…. We don’t want to deal with the police. We don’t want to go to jail for nothing, you know? I don’t want anything bad to happen, you understand? Not for me or anybody else! I don’t want to ruin the whole centre. You better find a solution… I don’t know how to explain it to you. It’s really difficult.
A. Some people calculate suicide.
B. B.: There is already one, he did it. He is here, if you want to talk to him. [Passes the phone.]
C. Yes, hello? Hello.
Q. How are you?
C. He’s not doing well at all. There are all kinds of diseases here. There is coronavirus, there is scabies, there are bedbugs, ticks. They treat us too badly. I have already made two suicide attempts. The day before yesterday I swallowed 17 pills, went to the emergency room and everything. Because it’s too difficult, it’s unbearable. We ask for the doctor, who doesn’t arrive for five days. We ask for luggage and we don’t get it for 5 days. They treat us like dogs. Also, the meals and everything… we don’t eat anything.
I’m from Marseilles, but they took me back to Nîmes. I was arrested in Marignane.
Q. Were you at the airport?
C. No, no, I wasn’t at the airport, I was with my girlfriend. In fact, I live with her, we’ve been together for three years. And the neighbour complained that we were making noise, because we moved. I came home from work and… Yesterday I was in isolation, in my underwear, there was no water, there was nothing. I made a suicide attempt because I asked the doctor for five days, I’m asthmatic, [in my luggage] I took Ventolin and in addition I have another medicine. They didn’t want to bring me back my medicine. Also, there was a policeman who spoke badly. I can’t take it anymore. I talk to him and say: ‘There are a lot of bugs and ticks. He says: ‘I don’t give a fuck about you and your bugs. I said, ‘I didn’t bring the bedbugs from home. It’s your ticks, I found them here in my room. The doctor said: ‘No, I don’t think there are bedbugs. I caught four or five of them in a bottle. And when I went to the doctor to attempt suicide, I brought him five bugs. He said: ‘Yes, I will see what we can do…’.
There are people who have corona, there are new people with covid, they put negative people with them!
Q. And why were you in isolation, why were you in isolation there?
C. I was in solitary because I tried to commit suicide. They said it’s because there are no cameras in the rooms, whereas in solitary there are cameras….
Q. Q.: So it is in fact punishment in addition to what?
C. R. : An additional punishment, yes, it is. I came back from the emergency room (they didn’t do anything, not even a transfusion) and then they put me in isolation. I didn’t eat, I mean I didn’t eat until the next day. In isolation there is no water, there is nothing at all.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add?
C. Yes, I mean something else. I would say for procedural defects. Because every time we bring back documents, we bring back proof that we work, that we have housing, that we have a family life and all that. My wife and I have been in a civil union for three years. They told the court that the PACS was not registered. Also, in the judgment it says that I was a guest of my sister in Paris. I don’t have a sister, I have never been to Paris! Even on the court document, I have it here, they wrote that I was born in 1973. I was born in 1987. I spoke to the public defender and he told me: ‘It’s nothing, it’s a typo’. It is not the same thing. A typo in 1967, no problem. But the typo telling me that I don’t have a fixed address, that’s not a typo, that’s a procedural error.
Q. And the prosecution is completely on the side of the prosecution when it says that?
C. That’s right. They are all together. The Forum also cooperates with the police. They are the ones who kept my documents. They didn’t give me the documents, so…
I made two suicide attempts. The first time I went on hunger and thirst strike. I have proof: four days I didn’t eat and three days I didn’t drink water. I was also in the centre in Nîmes. Then they took me to the centre and put me in isolation. I was hungry, thirsty, I had no Ventolin and everything. There I had a crisis. Then they took me back to the cell. They told me: ‘Take a sugar cube and go to sleep’. And so I did.
Q. OK, difficult. And you said, Refugee Forum, that they kept your documents to prevent you from defending yourself?
C. It was three days that I asked the Forum Réfugiés to take my documents, because I had a sentence [before the JLD]. I told them: ‘It’s the day after tomorrow. They tell me: ‘OK, you’re on the list, you’re on the list’. Every day I call, they tell me I’m on the list. And I went like an idiot to the judge. At 8 o’clock I asked about the Forum, they told me: “No, it’s closed, they open at 10 o’clock”. I said: ‘So I’m going before the judge without an identity card? I have a permanent contract, I have 23 pay slips.
Now I have 45 days. I have already lost 16 kilos. That’s all.
And when they come to pick someone up for the plane, they come against us. They came and four of them jumped on him. They put him down. Then he left. He refused the test and they sent him back anyway without a test.
Q. To which country was he headed?
Q. Is there anything else you want to convey?
C. Yes, apart from bedbugs, scabies and everything else. We also eat badly. There are many procedural errors. They send people away on purpose. And then it’s too dirty here, it’s disgusting. They don’t clean the rooms. The policemen speak badly to us. We eat too badly, not even 100 grams! There are people who don’t eat meat, meat that’s not halal, there’s a colleague, the policeman told him: ‘It’s not halal? I don’t give a fuck, why are you coming to France then?
The day before yesterday I was in emergency and yesterday I was in isolation. They cut off the water. Half a foam mattress and no blanket or anything. They even took off my plastic flip-flops. What am I going to do with flip-flops? I was in my underwear for 24 hours, until the next day. With nothing. Barefoot, with trousers on. I took 18 pills, I don’t even know what I took. They didn’t give me any medicine or anything. My stomach hurts too much, I’m cold, I’m hungry. From midday to the next morning. I screamed, slammed the door. Also, in isolation, the door is like that of a refrigerator. There is a door, a room opens behind it.
Q. Are people often sent to isolation in this way?
C. Yes, there are many people. They talk badly to you, if you answer they take you back to the “cachot”, the isolation cell.
Q. OK. Anything else you want to add?
C. No, that’s all right. There’s somebody who wants to talk. You wanna talk? [Hand over the phone.]
D. Yes, hello, sir.
D. Q.: I would like to know just one thing. Why am I not allowed to see my son? I just got out of prison, I didn’t have a visiting room when I was in prison. I didn’t even have clothes, you know? I just got out of detention, they brought me back here, I haven’t seen my son, it’s been eight months. My sister brought him here from Lyon, they said children can’t come back. I mean because my sister came from Lyon to bring my son back, you know what I mean? Frankly, I wanted to do crazy things. I had blades on me, I wanted to eat them and everything. They wanted to cut me, why am I not allowed to see my son when eight months have passed? I’m here, my heart is burning for my son and now when he comes to the detention centre, they won’t let him in. Do you find that normal, sir?
Q. Of course not.
D. Don’t I have the right to see my son? Who is he? The court has not forbidden me to see my son. But the PAF [border police] prevents me from seeing my son. I swear, I didn’t ask for anything, I didn’t ask for anything else.
I just wanted to see my son. Today I’m here, I’m eating 9 medicines to sleep, so much I think about my son. I always think about my son. I brought them a certificate that I am taking Pregabalin, but they won’t give it to me. They tell me: ‘We don’t have it! They give me more medication to make me a vegetable. To make me talk more, so that I am calm. Do you understand what I mean? I tried to eat this medicine and I was like a vegetable. In reality I was just sleeping. I get up, I’m tired, I sleep and that’s not the point. The point is to get rid of the pain: I have an arm that I can’t move. So I have to take Pregabalin because I have pain. They give me drugs that have nothing to do with it. I don’t even eat them, I flush them down the toilet. I have so many here, I have so many in the bag, I don’t even eat them. They give me things that will make me a vegetable.
There are people here, they have covid. And we did the test, we don’t have covid and we are with them anyway. The first day I came back they told me: ‘You have covid. Two days later they told me: ‘You don’t have covid’. Does covid stay for two days, sir? Well, they did it with me. I was sick, they took me back to isolation! You don’t take a sick person to isolation, you take them to hospital! They put me in isolation, they locked me up, they don’t give me cigarettes, they don’t talk to me, they don’t let me smoke. Nothing at all. I have the right to have nothing. I was not sick, I knew very well that I was not sick. But even if I was sick, don’t I have the right to smoke? Am I not allowed to take a walk? They didn’t take me for a walk. They did nothing to me. They locked me up for three days. On the fourth day I came out of the cell.
But that is not what I am talking about. It is only about my son. I want to see my son. Why do they forbid me to see my son? How can I see my son? Should I run away? What should I do?
And the Refugee Forum does nothing. I spoke to them. They sent me some documents. Four days passed. I felt bad, I didn’t call them and they didn’t call me to say: ‘You have the documents’. And they didn’t call me. Why didn’t they call me? Every time I call them, they tell me: ‘We have people’. But if you have people, manage your things if we are there! You don’t know how to do anything. You are here, but you tell me: ‘I have too many things to do’.
Frankly, it’s misery here, it’s misery. We are not allowed to eat sweets, we are not allowed to drink. After all, we are recluses, we are not convicts.
Q. Afterwards, even for prisoners, this does not justify action.
D. Q.: Yes, but I was in prison, I had sweets, I ate well. I had everything, well… But now that they bring back sweets, they refuse to let them in. Why? Why am I not allowed to bring cakes? I don’t know. Why am I not allowed to see my son? I don’t know. Why am I not allowed to have my medicine? I don’t know. Why do we have the disease here and they can’t handle anything? I don’t know. We have all the disease in the world and they can’t handle it. And we don’t think it’s normal. The guards tell us: “We don’t give a shit”. We’re in France, after all. In Algeria they don’t treat us like this, we have policemen who are bastards, excuse me for saying so. But here it’s worse! Frankly, I don’t know what they want from us.
And then… We have a boy who has scabies. He’s got scabies and everything. I’m sorry, he has scabies. Really. But they didn’t give him any medication, nothing. They told him, “It’s nothing, it’ll pass.” Even at the hospital they didn’t release him. The boy has a broken knee, they broke his knee. They don’t want to take him to hospital so he can’t make a certificate and file a complaint against them. I know the law, I know how it works. There is a colleague of mine, here in front of me, who has toothache. He has been asking for a doctor for a long time. He just asks for a Doliprane or whatever, and they tell him no. “You, because you speak badly, we won’t give it to you”. But it is normal that you speak badly! From 8 o’clock in the morning he asks for the doctor, at 2.30 p.m. you tell him: “You speak badly”. It is normal that the person is going crazy, because he has toothache!
That’s it – we’ve told you everything.