Asylum seeker takes his life in Belgium

Asylum seeker takes his life in Belgium


Written by: Cassandra Cavallaro

A Cameroonian national has apparently taken his own life in a Belgian detention centre only days after a failed attempt to deport him to Cameroon.

Ebenizer Folefack Sontsa, who is reported to have been either 29 or 32 years old, was found hanged by bed sheets in a bathroom at the detention centre in the northern town of Merksplas on 1 May. Detainees at the centre rioted in protest following the news of his death.

The attempt to deport him happened just days before on board a Brussels Airlines flight bound for Douala. Ebenizer was reportedly restrained by police officers and was crying out that he did not want to return to Cameroon. When fellow passengers voiced their concerns about his treatment to flight attendants and began filming the events, police removed Ebenizer from the plane.

Police also proceeded to remove three passengers from the Brussels Airlines flight, detaining one of them – Serge Fosso – for ten hours. Fosso, also a Cameroonian, claims he was punched and kicked by Belgian police as they took him away. He was subsequently banned from Brussels Airlines for six months.

Ebenizer was returned to the detention centre and was, allegedly, left with significant injuries following the police attempts to restrain him onboard the plane. Officials at the Merksplas detention centre confirmed that his body displayed ‘signs of trauma’ on his return.

An investigation is underway as to whether police used excessive force to restrain Ebenizer during the failed deportation. Following the death, ten years ago of a Nigerian woman, Semira Adamu, who was suffocated during a deportation when Belgian police used pillows to restrain her and stop her from crying out, four police officers were convicted and the interior minister resigned. The ‘cushion’ technique for subduing deportees was then suspended.

Related links

IRR News story: Analysis: Deaths during forced deportation

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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