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Confusing incident leads to protest by residents of Harku dentention center

An incident on Sunday led foreigners detained at Harku Detention Center to protest against the center on Monday, with residents of the expulsion center refusing to eat and a number of detainees waving signs in the yard and refusing to go inside.

The protesting detainees’ signs included messages such as, "We are imprisoned asylum-seekers, we need freedom," and "I am an asylum-seeker, not a criminal" as well as "Three asylum-seekers are crazy, this place isn’t safe for us," reported daily Eesti Päevaleht.

Monday’s protests were prompted by an incident which took place at the detention center on Sunday evening, noted the paper.

According to police spokesperson Helen Uldrich, on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m., a detention center employee noticed a scuffle that had broken out in the residents’ second-floor living quarters.

"According to current information, one man was acting aggressively, tore his own clothes off and ripped up others’ papers which had been in the living quarters," Uldrich commented.

Police handcuffed the man and escorted him to the center’s medical room where, according to the spokesperson, no injuries were detected but the medics administered him a sedative shot.

"In the medic’s opinion, the man did not display any evidence of the use of gas, for example irritation of the eyes or respiratory tract," said Uldrich.

Witness account of Sunday night skirmish

The paper contacted one of the asylum-seekers involved in the incident and was provided with the following description of events on Sunday night, according to which the incidents to unfold that evening involved Emmanuel, a 22-year-old Nigerian asylum-seeker who has been held at the detention center for 11 months.

On Sunday evening, Emmanuel had come in from outside and entered his room without having first removed his shoes, which upset two Muslim individuals sharing the room, giving way to a conflict. Emmanuel reacted in a strange way, breaking out into hysterical laughter, taking his clothes off and ripping up papers. Others tried to calm him and hold him down.

The police officer on guard, Aleksandr, was summoned and asked to call in a medic to subdue Emmanuel. The police did not summon a medic, however, and according to the witness gassed Emmanuel instead; a Gambian man had also apparently gotten gas in his eyes as a result.

According to the source, Emmanuel had gotten a particularly large dose of gas and was unable to walk or open his eyes as a result. Following Aleksandr’s orders, the detainee stumbled blindly forward, but was allegedly thereafter shoved by Aleksandr in such a way that Emmanuel fell and hit his head against the table, after which he lay motionless, with blood running from his mouth.

Ulrich claims, however, that Aleksandr, the police officer, maintains that he did not use gas against the men, only handcuffs.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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