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Memories of camp 44 and Algerian solitary confinement Memories of camp 44 and Algerian solitary confinement
by Joseph Gatt
2019-04-26 08:30:47
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I was arrested on January 2, 2015 and deported to camp 44 in South Korea. Here's how the daily routine works.

-You get a room with Internet access and a cell phone, and a store that sells beer and dry sandwiches that also do your laundry for a fee.

-You have to wake up before 9 AM so you can make it to the labor camp at 9 AM. Being late leads to bouts of torture, either in the form of yelling and hazing, or more cruel forms.

-From 9 AM to 5:30 PM you are forced to be in the labor camp, Mondays through Fridays. But you rarely leave at 5:30 PM. Lunch is not provided, so you have to pray God really hard that the store will have sandwiches available. Otherwise you lunch on ramen, or you starve.

conf-The labor camp is a crowded room with 4 guards watching over you. You have to sit straight, and if you bend over or relax your legs an alarm goes off. You if ignore the alarm, you get a beating or yelling or hazing.

-Your computer screen at the labor camp is also monitored in real time. I held an administrative position supervising foreign detainees and taking care of their administrative work. Foreign detainees were allowed breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I was allowed neither of those.

-In the labor camp, there's a back room known as the torture room with all kinds of torture devices. If you're lucky, you get hazed. If you're unlucky, you get tortured.

-When you get tortured here are the symptoms; tremors (your hands and feet keep shaking), loss of appetite, vomiting everything you eat, and your body is like floating on air. Another symptom I had was a stiff left leg, and I couldn't bend my left leg and had to limp. The limp disappeared when I left the camp.

Now here are the circumstances surrounding my arrest and deportation, and eventual liberation.

Throughout 2014, I had been very active, writing lots of articles, directly challenging the Korean president's authority. I was involved in labor unions and worker's rights, and tried to push for anti-abuse laws at the workplace, more specifically laws that would promote emotional wellbeing, stability of people's private lives, clarity related to tasks having to be accomplished, and transparent organizational support.

I was also pushing for legal changes, as the only real option for foreign residents in Korea was to teach English or to work at a factory, and there were very few alternative options for foreign residents. Unfortunately only Americans, the British, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, the Irish and South Africans are allowed to teach English, meaning that for all other nationalities the only real option is to work at a factory. Factories have a reputation of abusing workers.

Myself being stateless and having nowhere to go to, I had to fight for my rights in Korea. On late November 2014, without a trial, I was told I would be sent to a concentration camp unless I left the country. Having no country to go to, I was deported to the concentration camp on January 2, 2015.

Now the concentration camp is an open concentration camp, meaning you can leave whenever you want, and go back to your country whenever you want. But I had no country to go back to. I tried to pull strings with my foster family to allow me to live in their home, telling them it was either that or staying at the concentration camp, and they suggested I stay at the concentration camp.

After 6 months of slave labor and torture, On June 12, 2015, I had a meeting with the camp guards. They told me my release date was set on June 30, 2015, but that I had to go back to “my country”. That's when my foster parents caved in and allowed me to go back to Algeria.

Once I arrived in Algeria, I had been placed in de facto solitary confinement. I was allowed a room with a kitchen and a bed, Internet connection, access to a sandwich shop and to a small supermarket, a dismal weekly allowance, and a ban on sending emails, making phone calls or receiving phone calls. The only emails I was allowed to send are to: Ovi Magazine and a couple of other friends and the only phone calls I am allowed to make are to my foster parents.

I was allowed to hold a job between February and October 2017, but other than that, I was mostly downloading books and reading them. The rest of the time I tend to improvise a meal, watch some television, and drink lots of coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes.

Problem is, there is no set release date. It's not like I'm going to be released on January 1, 2020 or something. I have pleaded for my release several times but got nothing. At least here I don't get tortured.

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