FECL 32 (March 1995):


In early February, a former officer of the Zairian Civil Guard (a special intervention force), currently waiting for a decision on his asylum application in the Netherlands, accused the Belgian airline, Sabena, of communicating the names of deportees on flights to Kinshasa to the Zairian security services, 15 minutes before landing. As a consequence, Zairian deportees from Belgium are seized by the "A4", the notorious National Intelligence and Protection Service headed by President Mobutu's son.

According to the former officer, who worked at Kinshasa airport as a member of the Civil Guard from 1990 to 1993, the returned refugees are then subjected to systematic search and physical abuse. In absence of money to bribe the officers or other "protection", the returned asylum-seekers are imprisoned for days, sometimes for months. Some also simply disappear.

The former officer emphasised that no Zairian humanitarian organisation was able to control what is happening at the airport.

According to members of the personnel of Sabena, the passenger list includes, apart from the routine particulars of every passenger, a special indication of the "status" of each passenger. The names of Zairian returnees are accompanied by the mentions "inad" for undocumented voluntary returnees, and "dépa" for deportees.

As required by Zaire, Sabena regularly communicates the passenger lists to the "station manager" of Kinshasa airport who then hands them over to the security services.

Further investigations by the Belgian daily Le Soir have brought to light that, besides the airline's passenger list, there is another list, drawn up by the Belgian Gendarmerie at Zaventem. This list contains the personal data of all rejected asylum-seekers on a Sabena flight and is transmitted to the Zairian Immigration Office via the Captain of the plane.

Police cooperation is working in both ways. Thus, the Gendarmerie at Brussels-Zaventem airport is now in the habit of thoroughly checking Zairian passengers as soon as they leave the plane. According to numerous witnesses, the Gendarmerie often physically abuses passengers with false travel documents suspected of being asylum-seekers. "This is what one calls a policy of dissuasion", an article in Le Soir concludes.


Source: Le Soir, 7.2.95, 8.2.95.