Goalkeeper of Norwegian football club kept in Minsk jail on suspicion in passport forgery
The citizen of Cameroon was detained by the migration service of Minsk-2 airport before the match, allegedly for having a forged passport. The Human Rights Center Viasna received a letter from the detainee’s girlfriend, Spaniard Inmaculada Gonzalez, who asked the human rights activists to clear up the fate of the Cameroonian.
She writes that Guy Francois Toukam has a residence permit in Spain, but received a proposal was play futsal in a Norvegian club IOF (Oslo). The team arrived in Minsk on 1 June for a match at the UEFA Futsal Championship cup series. The player was detained at the airport because his passport looked very old. I know exactly that the passport was valid, as Toukam applied to the Embassy of Cameroon in Madrid in early summer 2009 and extended it until 2011. I need your help to find my friend. I need to know where he is, in what conditions he is. I ask you to learn about his health and tell me, and help to defend his rights for legal protection and fair trial. Please, help me! Inmaculada Gonzalez.’
The human rights activist found out that Guy Francois Toukam is really in custody in Minsk. A request from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the embassy of Cameroon in Moscow, the nearest country’s embassy, was sent to identify his personality. The Embassy hasn’t replied yet. As a rule, the process of deportation is started only after receiving an official answer from the embassy. However, much time can pass till the foreign citizen returns home, as he or his country must pay the cost of the return ticket.
In general, the situation of Toukam is quite typical for Belarus. Every year border guards or migration services detain thousands of citizens of other countries on suspicion in violation of the rules of stay of foreign citizens in Belarus. According to information of the Migration and Citizenship Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, last year 1,574 citizens of former Soviet republics were deported from Belarus, and a somewhat smaller number of citizens of other countries of the world. Many of them had to undergo the unpleasant procedure of waiting.
Enira Branitskaya, Deputy Chairperson of the Committee to Protect the Repressed Persons Solidarity, knows such stories from her own experience. In 2005, serving an administrative arrest term in the delinquents’ isolation center in Akrestsin Street, she shared the cell with a girl from Comoro Islands, who spent four months in the cell before Enira Branitskaya was placed there. The prisoner didn’t even know English. However, Branitskaya understood French and therefore managed to learn the terrible circumstances of the girl’s keeping. The prison guards cut off her plaits, as she got pediculosis in the cell and there were no means of hygiene. Sometimes the girl was loosing the sense of reality. Pitifully enough, we have no information about how long she was kept there before the deportation. A citizen of Moldova was also kept there, waiting to be deported for the second time already. The migration service detained her when she came to Belarus to her husband, as she had neither a residence permit, nor a temporary registration. Having a certain experience, she managed to quickly apply to her relatives so that they could gather the money for a return ticket, as far as she had no hopes to be taken home at the expense of Moldova.
On 4 June, the teams Okhrana Minsk (Minsk) and IOF (Oslo) played a match as part of the XX UEFS Champions Cup. Belarusians won 10-1. Goalkeeper Guy Francois Toukam couldn’t take part in the match, as he was in jail in Akrestsin Street at the time.
Human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich knows the situation and describes administrative detention of foreigners as a great problem for them:
‘People can stay in special dentition facilities for some months. Conditions there are equal for all inmates, both Belarusians and foreigners. The center of isolation of offenders is known for very bad conditions. Foreigners often don’t know languages, don’t have legal assistance. They are left alone with their problems, their embassies can be situated tens thousand kilometers away. In such cases, the Belarusian services had to wait so long for official confirmation of personality and financial ability. This is really a big problem, because Belarusian human rights activists do not have access to detention facilities and are unable to render a qualified legal assistance.’
Considering how awful it can be to be isolated in a foreign country, without legal assistance, necessary things, friends, and knowledge of the country’s language, the human rights activists passed the detainee health aids, office supplies, drinking water, which is allowed by the legislation. They also reached his friends in Spain in order the Embassy of Cameroon in Spain could accelerate replying to the request of the Belarusian Ministry.