At-risk foreign nationals still face solitary confinement, despite minister’s promise

Corridor prison.Foreign nationals are still likely to face solitary confinement at deportation centres as a disciplinary measure, despite government pledges to reduce its use, the Volkskrant says on Monday.

In the first half of 2015, 75% of punishments handed out to foreign nationals in deportation centres involved solitary confinement, the paper says. It bases its claim on information obtained under freedom of information legislation.

Former junior justice minister Fred Teeven had promised to reduce the amount of solitary confinement following the suicide of Russian asylum seeker Aleksandr Dolmatov at the Rotterdam centre 2013.

However, although use of solitary confinement has gone down in absolute numbers, it remains an equally popular punishment because the number of people held in foreigner detention centres has also been reduced, the Volkskrant says.

People are placed in the detention centres if it is likely they will be deported and officials feel there is a risk they will go underground. The European court of justice has said several times that these detention centres should not be like prisons, but in the Netherlands they are covered by penal law.

Attempted suicide

At the same time, the Volkskrant says, an increasing number of solitary confinement orders follow ‘medical incidents’ such as attempted suicide, psychoses, hunger strikes and self-harm. In 2013, one-third of the orders followed a health-related incident but this had risen to almost half in the first six months of this year.

Bouke Bijnsdorp, of the secure clinic GGZ inGeest in Haarlem, said isolating suicidal people is particularly traumatic. ‘Desperate, confused people who no longer want to live need care, not solitary confinement,’ he told the paper.

Earlier this year, another foreign national committed suicide while being held in the Rotterdam detention centre. The justice ministry has declined to issue any more details.

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