Belgium: Suspicious death of a Tunisian in Vottem detention centre

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On 4 January 2010, 31-year-old Tunisian asylum seeker Yahya Tabbabi died in Vottem foreigners detention centre near Liege, three days after he was held there after leaving France, where he had taken part in an occupation on the outskirts of Nantes that was evicted by the French police on 15 December 2009. He was stopped by the Belgian police on 31 December 2009. His family in Tunisia and the association Fédération Tunisiens pour une cittoyeneté des Deux Rives (FTCR) describe the circumstances of his death as "obscure" and have called for an investigation to discover the truth, as well as expressing support for the hunger strike in Vottem detention centre that followed the death.

After the police had described the death as "suspicious", the Belgian interior ministry foreigners' office claimed that it was drug-related, as the man was deemed a drug addict and the hypothesis on the cause of death by the coroner was a methadone and benzodiazepine overdose. The family in Tunisia denies that he was a drug addict and has confirmed that it will file a lawsuit, the FTCR and other local human rights associations and fellow detainees spoke of the possibility that the death may have resulted from an illness that received inadequate medical care.

The Collectif de Résistance Aux Centres Pour Etrangers (CRACPE), an organisation that campaigns against detention centres and stages fortnightly demonstrations outside Vottem detention centre, has reported that "regardless of what the causes of the death may be", detainees with whom they spoke prior to the death had complained about their "not having been allowed to see the doctor even when they asked to do so", stressing that is no doctor working full-time at the centre.


Pana 6.1.2010; FTCR statement, 8.1.2010; CRACPE statement, 5.1.2010.

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