Peter Van der Auweraert – IOM, Western Balkans Coordinator and Representative and Chief of Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dear Peter (if we may),
We hope this letter finds you in good health. We received the news of your imminent departure with great pleasure and excitement. And as Bosnia and Herzegovina is widely known for its hospitability, we did not want to see you leave before a final goodbye and a small present.
We are no strangers to people coming to our country seeking to make careers, pretending they are here to help. For some reason, we do our best to make you feel welcome. Maybe it is because here in Bosnia it is customary to take good care of our guests – no matter their intentions.
And you have been well taken care of – the money has flown, your CV has been upgraded, the mountains and the sea were within your reach and leisure, and let’s be honest, you have not allowed any difficult subjects to stand in your way of time well spent. Certainly not the thousands of people entrusted to your care. Pardon, in the care of IOM, which you manage, so by the extension it really is in your care.
What is the well-being of a couple of thousands of people against upgrading your CV with things like transitional justice, peace-making and peace building, not to mention the now very attractive migration management and prevention of violent extremism. We understand that all of these are in great demand in the global market of white saviorism, so you cannot really be blamed.
But this is the thing with Bosnian hospitality. It comes with an expectation that the hospitality shown to you must be mirrored in the way you treat your guests when the opportunity arises. And you’ve had plenty of guests and opportunities. So, in your final weeks in Bosnia let’s make sure our hospitality towards you is properly judged against your hospitality towards people on the move. Ultimately, and 70 million of Euros later, you and the organisation you manage have been entrusted with the fates and well-being of thousands of people. Why they have been entrusted to IOM and you is beyond our understanding – but that is a whole different subject.
It would probably also be customary to, in a farewell letter, acknowledge your accomplishments and thank you for everything you’ve done but there is about 70 million euros worth of reasons why this farewell letter cannot be about your accomplishments but about your failures. Out of a long list of failures, forced labour and inhumane and degrading conditions in the concentration camps run by IOM, an organization you manage, stand high on our list. It is definitely not a sign of good hospitability to leave women, children, men, and families without warm water, in leaking tents, served with poor food, with no or limited health care, beaten by security guards, even killed by a security guard, subjected to forced labour (so called cleaning campaigns) and generally left without protection from that very same organization that received a great amount of money to do exactly that – to protect.
As you move on to your new victories, in other far away countries in need of your help and unrivaled skills in crisis management we fear you might be forgotten as instrumental in creating this (dis)order of things. We would hate to see that happen and we will make sure your legacy is widely remembered.
In Bosnia, when the guest is departing it is an old tradition to pour a glass of water behind the guest as he leaves as a gesture of good luck. And while we cannot do that, we do want to make sure that you are properly thanked for your service. So, we enclose to this letter a series of pictures that will forever memorialise your contribution to what you call migration management and we refer to as crimes against humanity.
Although we are excited at the prospect of you moving to a new job our excitement dwindles away knowing that our gain is somebody else’s loss. Also, it is not unimaginable that your place as IOM chief in Bosnia will be taken by somebody with an even worse track record, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
Dear Peter, we fully understand that you are just one of the many harmful wheels that move the international and particularly the EU vehicle of egregious injustice. As we write this farewell letter to you we imagine the departure of the entire system of oppression, of these racists and violent politics that know no language of dignity and solidarity.
We bid you farewell in hope you will never return,
Activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina