We demand transparency in the work of international organizations and an immediate switch to the practices of care and justice!
Since 2018, when the first “temporary reception center” run by the IOM and financed by large from the EU, was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina, people placed in camps have been trying to draw the attention of the public. They have been united in saying that living conditions have been below any standards. At the same time, IOM representatives, as well as the EU, have been repeating that the centers have been built in accordance with the “European standards”. However, they have never told us what these standards are.
At the moment, camp Blažuj near Sarajevo is the biggest concentration camp in BiH with over 3.200 people ‘housed’ inside. The conditions are precarious. No hot water, food is only basic, it is overcrowded, no heating, many people have scabies, every illness is treated with paracetamol and brufen (DRC responsibility). A similar precarious situation is in another camp near Sarajevo, Ušivak.
People in Sarajevo are receiving everyday pleas for help from the people in the camps. They ask for food, clothes, hygiene supplies, even baby diapers. Tensions are high and occur in daily conflicts. Additionally, the part of the staff in centers is rude, unprofessional, abusive, and often disrespectful towards the people. Local police enter the camps, and the surrounding area, often using methods that should be scrutinized.
Therefore, we must ask: Do mass, overcrowded camps represent the “European standard” of living? Is the absence of basic living conditions like hot water and heating, the absence of medical care and treatment, the absence of regular diet and widespread hunger, the absence of human care and compassion the “European standard”? Are mass camps soon becoming new mass graves, as a result of the European living standard in question?
The atmosphere of tension culminated in Blažuj on the evening of January 20th, when a huge fight broke inside the camp. Another one. Each time it is bigger and bigger. IOM cannot negate this as we all saw the fire a few nights ago, which was the result of one such fight. Those who are running camp do not have the knowledge, or willingness, to deal with tensions, meaning to provide more psychological support than security, better conditions, and activities that would make people at least feel human. Instead of that, the IOM and others have decided to limit media access, and to monitor contacts ‘residents’ have with people outside of the camp and the media, often punishing those who are found to communicate with people outside and accused of sending true information about the conditions in the camp (that should be public anyway). Those who do that are often punished with retaliation, expulsion, or even detention inside the special area in the camps, but also in official detention centers in Bosnia, where with no trials or delivered sentences people are kept sometimes for months.
In the end, the media, IOM, and authorities put the perpetual blame on people on the move, demonizing and criminalizing them in order to justify their own (wrong) doings and (mis)handlings.
We ask for transparency in the work of international organizations, and an immediate switch to the practices of care and justice. People in Bosnia, but also many other countries in a similar situation, have been asking for this for decades, with little success, while witnessing what could be described as very problematic behaviour of the personnel and leaders of the international organizations (e.g. during the war, especially in so called “safe zones”, or after the war when the UN personnel was involved in human trafficking).
- unlimited media access to the camps
- freedom of speech for people inside the camps
- utter protection from all kinds of violence
- access to nutritive food, hot and drinking water, hygienic care, medical treatments, mental health support
- end to the police, military, and security guards’ violence.
No more structural violence.
No more mass camps.
No more (mass) graves.