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Fortress Europe: Exposed to the Systematic Arbitrariness of IOM and Bosnian Police

Velika Kladuša. Bosnia. On November 24, the biggest autonomous squat in Velika Kladuša, a town close to the Croatian-Bosnian border in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), was evicted by special police. People on the Move (PoM) were forced to get out of their tents, pack their stuff and get into busses, not knowing where they will be brought. Afterwards special police forces burned down the camp structures and remaining shelters and with it all the belongings, people couldn’t take with them.

Originally published by The Border Starts Here.

PoM told us, that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) went already the days before to squats around Velika Kladuša, counting people and telling them they’d come back in the next days to deport them into IOM camps. These collected figures serve the Bosnian police forces to better prepare for such evictions. This clearly shows, how IOM – a so-called humanitarian organization related to the United Nations (UN) – is working hand in hand with organs of state repression. 

Only some days before the burned-down Lipa Camp, located 25km from Bihać and around two hours by car from Velika Kladuša, was solemnly reopened. Laura Lungarotti, IOM chief of Mission in BiH, present at the reopening ceremony alongside local Bosnian and international politicians and officials, described the reopening cynically as an “excellent day”. It might be mere happenstance, that police forces evicted the biggest squat around Velika Kladuša shortly after reopening Lipa Camp. Or it might be sheer calculation. The new so-called “reception centre” is supported and co-funded by IOM. It was also IOM, who announced to close the camp last year December 23, reasoning the closure with the lack of access to basic services such as water and road access. The same day Lipa burned down in unknown circumstances. IOM describes it as “forcing more than 1,000 people onto the streets”. Though not the fire, but already the closure under the (ir)responsibility of IOM left the people in the middle of winter, while temperatures were at night below zero, in the mountains without providing any alternative shelter. “Today we are turning a tragedy into an opportunity”, Laura Lungarotti claimed at the official reopning ceremony. Whereas a tragedy describes a fateful and unsolvable catastrophy, the closure of Lipa Camp has been discussed and planned by IOM in the long run. This is a hypocrite and inhumane attempt to shift responsibilities, where it can be clearly specified as IOM’s failure “to provide humanitarian assistance to [People on the Move] in need”, as IOM is claiming as their goal.

There are alarming parallels between the pictures of the burning open-air squat in Velika Kladuša yesterday and the burning Lipa Camp last winter – both times IOM was in advance involved in depriving People on the Move from their remaining autonomy and protection. It’s these pictures of burning camps – whether it is Velika Kladuša, Lipa or Moria – that should remind us of what unbearable situation People on the Move are forced into by EU’s closed-border policy and the European asylum system aiming to restrict the freedom of movement instead of welcoming people. And it should remind us of holding accountable who is in charge. 

#DefundIOM #Bosnia #BurnBordersNotShelters #FightFortressEurope #OpenAllBorders 


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