The Winter Outside Camp Lipa

Despite the extreme conditions, People on the Move choose, for different reasons, not to submit to the policy of closure that tries to keep and control people in camps.
Those who dare to spend the winter outside the camps place themselves at the mercy of autonomous organizations. However, it is impossible for us to support people to the extent that would be appropriate, also because we are again dependent on capacities and especially donations. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your donations, which are essential for us to be able to provide better care.


In spite of everything, we try to provide the most necessary as much as we can, in order not to leave the people alone with the inhumane policy. We as a collective position ourselves against the instrumentalization of the camps for isolation and wish to be able to make possible that the people are helped in the places where it is necessary and they want that themselves, so that they can reach the places they want.


The winter, in addition to circumstances that are now increasingly inhumane for People on the Move, also complicates our working conditions. In Bihać, temperatures are currently dropping below zero every day, so water tanks, which are one of the essential livelihoods, can freeze.
In addition to water and food, firewood is now a vital resource for people to survive on a daily basis. Due to the lack of dry wood, People on the Move often have to choose between cooking meals or heating. The mountain range that looms behind the town of Bihać and represents the border crossing for the game is snowed in. It is life-threatening to go out at this time of year.

Thus, some people retreat to abandoned houses, which we also try to make more habitable through construction work. While in the summer, this work was limited to providing energy through solar panels, now it also consists of creating rooms that can be heated with stoves, so that people can live more sheltered from the winter. Those who do not find refuge in abandoned houses try to make their tents more livable with blankets and tarps. On some cold days we can ensure warm showers, we can always distribute clothes, but above all the coldness of the policy with which people are abandoned, can be combated by us only symptomatically.

New Donations arrived – Thank you

Vier Paletten Schuhe, Kleidung Schlafsäcke, Rucksäcke und Zelte, die im Oktober und November in Potsdam gesammelt wurden, kamen diese Woche in Bihać an und können unmittelbar an Menschen auf der Flucht verteilt werden.
Vielen Dank an alle für’s Organisieren (@wir_packen_s_an ), Sammeln (@freiland_potsdam ,la Datscha und @kk_fairverpackt ) und Spenden. Danke für euren Support.

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Four pallets of shoes, clothes, sleeping bags, backpacks and tents collected in Potsdam in October and November arrived in Bihać this week and can be distributed immediately to People on the Move.
Thanks to everyone for organizing (@wir_packen_s_an ), collecting (@freiland_potsdam , la Datscha and @kk_fairverpackt ) and donating. Thank you for your support.

#fightfortresseurope #leavenoonebehind #nobordernonation   

Winter in Lipa Camp

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the new Lipa Camp was opened in a ceremony after several postponements due to construction work as well as problems with electrical supply. Co-funded by the EU, the Lipa camp was initially managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), after the fire in 2020,  the Bosnian Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (SFA) took over. It has been repeatedly and rightly criticized for inhumane conditions. It is highly questionable whether the reopening is a cause for celebration.

People on the Move who  currently live in the Lipa camp, tell us of 6 beds in the containers that constitute living space, adequate sanitary facilities with hot water, as well as three daily meals. Again and again, autonomous collectives bring basic foodstuffs to give the people the opportunity to cook for themselves. There is access to medical care and small stores for shopping. The pictures we get from the residents of the camp support the reports and show at first sight sufficient hygienic conditions.

But at second glance on thing above all is shown: a dreary, joyless living environment, surrounded by fences. Hardly any of the people we came into contact with during our work would want to spend a long time there voluntarily. Even though the Lipa camp is not a closed place in the sense that people are incarcerated , it is a isolated place and nobody is there voluntarily, but because of the greatest need.

In camps like this, which are actually planned as a temporary solution, in reality precious life time feels wasted and people’s health, strained by the journey, can be damaged in the long term. Camps like this are one symptom of the political and humanitarian crisis of which they claim to be the solution. Lipa merely provides a way to stem the flow of people and control it in a place that prevents People on the Move from moving freely and hinders humans to reach the EU’s external border due to a lack of infrastructure and connectivity.

The camp itself is located on a plateau about 25 kilometers from the nearest major city of Bihać, which is about a five to six hour walk. In the immediate vicinity, there are villages abandoned mainly during the Bosnian wars, no major shopping facilities, no urban structures. In other words, the Lipa camp is largely isolated from the rest of society and out of public view.

In summer, many people often leave the camp again after a short time and try to organize themselves autonomously outside. In winter, however, they are forced to put up with the conditions. One writes to us: “And they will not help the migrants out of the camps. If you want to be safe, if you want to get food, if you want to have medical care, if you want to have a safe shelter, if you want to be warm, if you want to not get tortured by the police, if you want to have protection, then you have to be and stay in the camps. There is no way without staying in the camps. The Bosnian government and other organization’s will not help you out of the  camps. […] They are able to help you in Bihac […] but they will not.”

In 2021 alone, Bosnia and Herzegovina has received over 25 million euros from the EU out of a total of 85.5 million euros for migration management. That money could be invested, for example, in providing adequate care for people, but in reality it also finances deportations, detentions, and police operations – measures that prevent people from moving on.
Under the guise of humanity and protection, the Lipa camp is part of the EU’s externalization policy and pushes refugees into exclusionary spaces determined by others. Help is only given to those who surrender to this confinement while being deprived of their autonomy. Pouring money into a politically troubled country in order to maintain the policy of externalization instead of creating legal escape routes to the EU cannot be the solution.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Bosnia-Herzegovina by BVMN

A month ago the border violence monitoring network (BVMN) was invited by the United Nations (UN) committee on the economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR) to present a submission during the 70th session of the committee. This submission evaluates observations and trends concerning the physical as well as psychological abuse of people-on-the-move in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that happen during push-backs as well as within BiH and criticizes systematic failings when it comes to provide shelter, health access and basic needs in camps as well as squats (self-organized housings).

Based on testimonies from people-in-transit BVMN concludes that BiH fails to meet it’s obligations and violates Articles 11 and 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights due to a number of observations:

  1. Essential items (like money or phones) get stolen by authorities, mainly in Croatia and partially in Bosnia (submission, p.:4).
  2. People aren’t given enough or even no food while in detention (p.:5 ibid.) and the conditions are unsanitary and inhumane. (p.:8 ibid.).
  3. Violence is being used by the authorities during push-backs (p.:6 ibid.).
  4. There is no adequate access to physical and psychological healthcare in BiH for PoM (p.:15 ibid) likewise basic healthcare is denied by police during push-backs regardless of existing injuries or preconditions (p.:7 ibid).
  5. The accommodation possibilities are absolutely inadequate in camps as well as in migration centers and outside the official state structures (p.:9 ibid). With a lack of food and water in camps as well as outside (e.g. authorities try to forbid access to supermarket to PoM as well as criminalizing support structures (p.:12-13 ibid.), sanctuary facilities (p.:12 ibid.), a general lack of security with testimonies reporting about violent behavior of private security forces in official camps, camps running far beyond capacities and cumulative evictions (p.:10-11 ibid.).

Our collective focus its analysis on the responsibility of the EU concerning the situation in BiH. We therefor try to understand the role of the EU with its external borderscapes stretching over whole countries integrating BiH within the EU border regime. Further, we look at how the EU outsources and partially finances the most brutal aspects in countries that are identified as important transit countries (like BiH) or countries of origin, some of those aspects are mentioned in the BVMN report. Nevertheless, if one understands the border regime as a process in which a multitude of actors play a role and where a constant test of strength between control (by institutions, authorities and ultimately states) and migration (expression of security and / or the freedom to choose one’s own place of residence) takes place, local governments and authorities are also an important actor in the border regime. Due to the heterogeneity and self-interest of all actors involved, the border regime is subject to a constant negotiation process. But the asymmetry of power in the relationship between the EU and its neighboring states means that the EU can (ultimately) often enforce its own interests. We therefore don’t want to exclude the responsibility of the EU fostering the bad and inhuman situation for people on the move in BiH which ultimately leads to a report like the one we summarize above. The failings of the Bosnian state to fulfill their responsibilities are failures of the EU as well. The support the EU offers is never for the sake of the PoM or the population of BiH but for the mere cause of keeping people outside the EU.
The EU must be held accountable for what is happening at its external borders due to its border policy resulting in unacceptable conditions for people-in-transit.

Our Statement on the Media Reports about the Documented Pushbacks on the Bosnian-Croatian Border

CN: Police violence/pushbacks

Push-Back Map Collective

The pictures of a research team, among others consisting of ARD-Studio Vienna, ARD-Magazin MONITOR, SPIEGEL and Lighthouse Reports, which gained media attention in the past days, show real footage of the humanitarian and political crimes that have been carried out daily for years at the EU external border on the Balkan route by the Croatian intervention police. The systematic process that can be seen in the footage is repeatedly confirmed to us here in Bihac, Bosnia-Herzegovina, first-hand by People on the Move (PoM).
Satellite images reveal the expansion of some roads that end in remote areas of Croatia right on the “green” border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Between 2019 and September 2021, seven new roads were built near the border. Pushbacks have been documented mainly in these places, which can be interpreted as an indication of the systematic nature of the deportations.
However, even these searches struggle to capture the scale of the violence. The documented cases only highlight the quality of the perversion and, standing alone, can only provide circumstantial evidence of the processes taking place in the background.

Testemonies
However, what can be seen in the footage has been captured in its quantity by organizations in recent years: Along the Balkan route, the activist network “Border Violence Monitoring Network” documented 892 group pushbacks with 12,654 deportations since 2017 to 2020, while the “Danish Refugee Council” documented almost 16,000 illegal rejections in Croatia for 2020 alone, although a large number of unreported cases must be assumed for both surveys. In reality, this means that a large proportion of PoM often face years of multiple rejections and people have to be stuck in inhumane conditions for a long time. One out of four deportations is related to systematic violence, in half of the cases necessary personal belongings, such as glasses, papers, cell phones, shoes, clothes and money were taken or destroyed to make the way more difficult for the people.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network’s August 2021 report documented no use of force against PoM from Afghanistan in only 7% of pushback cases.
Collected Testimonies involving Afghans

People were punched or kicked in 77% of cases, and police stole from them in 61% of cases. 26% had to disrobe and firearms were used compared to 15%. This happens both at the borders and in the interior of the country.

Types of Violence during Push-Backs
We even receive daily reports of pushbacks from Slovenia, Austria and Italy – so-called (also illegal) chain pushbacks: people are driven back in police cars, handed over at the border to the police of the neighboring country, and thus deported to behind the Croatian-Bosnian external border.
Any form of pushbacks constitutes a wanton violation of the Geneva Refugee Convention, international law, as well as applicable EU law, as no case-by-case assessment is carried out and the right to apply for asylum is denied. “Pushbacks are simply illegal,” states Gillian Triggs, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees.
The political motives of the crimes are complex and can be seen on several dimensions.
Since 2015, the Balkan route has been a state-controlled humanitarian escape route that at this point passes through the states of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy before most PoM reach their destination country.
Croatia has the role of a transit country, as hardly any people have the interest to stay there. Croatia alone should thus not see a major problem in migration, as long-term consequences would be largely absent compared to other countries. On the other hand, however, Croatia’s border with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina forms the longest external land border of the European Union from a political perspective. In addition, Croatia is economically interested in joining the Schengen area and is in the process of accession. In this process, certain criteria in the area of external border management must be taken into account, the fulfillment of which was awarded to the country by the EU Commission in 2019.
These Croatian border operations are financed from the German side partly through the Schengen Internal Security Fund (ISF) and from the entire EU from 2017 to 2021 through the Asylum Migration and International Fund (AMIF). In addition, there are requirements plans for frontline operations on the Croatian-Bosnian border until 2027. Germany alone has sent thermal imaging cameras and cars worth several million euros to the Croatian police since 2015 under the pretext of “border protection.” In total, the illegal border operations were financed by the EU with more than 100 million euros.
Croatia is acting as an executive body in the sense of the EU, which for years has tacitly accepted and thus supported the violent policy of deterrence. At the moment, the Croatian Ministry of Interior is being held responsible as a scapegoat by the EU, which itself blames individual police officers, while the central role of the other EU member states is neglected. In the media it was said that the EU trusts a Croatian team of experts to investigate the incidents, although it was to be expected that such a team would hardly be able to grasp a problem whose origin does not lie in Croatia. In addition, independent inspections were announced so that authorities and officials could be prepared.
As a result of the documentations, only three police officers were suspended from their duties, and Croatian Interior Minister Božinović spoke of “unacceptable behavior of individual police officers” in order to deny the systematic use of violence, although it is inevitably recognizable through many searches. Croatian officials commented on this and stressed that the order to use force came from “the very top,” i.e., from the Interior Minister himself.
The mutual blame on the part of the EU, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior as well as the individuals negligently disregard the extent of the exercise of violence, which takes place in the sense of the European border policy. However, the inhumane situation can and will only change if not only all those involved are held accountable, but also if the premises of this policy itself become the center of the outcry.
Freedom of Movement

Reference list

Amnesty International. (2020). EU: Inquiry into European complicity in Croatian border violence against migrants and refugees “significant.” [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2020/11/eu-inquiry-into-european-complicity-in-croatian-border-violence-against-migrants-and-refugees-significant/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Luise Amtsberg, Dr. Irene Mihalic, Filiz Polat, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN -Drucksache 19/27094 – Pushback-Vorwürfe gegen Frontex und die Rolle der deutschen Einsatzkräfte. (2021).

Border Violence Monitoring Network. (2021). Balkan Region Report – August 2021 – Border Violence Monitoring Network. [online] Available at: https://www.borderviolence.eu/balkan-region-report-august-2021/ [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Buckel, S., Graf, L., Kopp, J., Löw, N. and Pichl, M. (2021). Kämpfe um Mirgationspolitik seit 2015.

Danish Refugee Council. (2021). Border Monitoring Factsheet August 2021. [online] Available at: https://drc.ngo/media/g1hh44vs/2021_08_drc-bih_border-monitoring-factsheet.pdf [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Deutschlandfunk. (2021). Illegale Abschiebungen an der EU-Grenze – Medien dokumentieren gewaltsame Pushbacks in Kroatien. [online] Available at: https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/illegale-abschiebungen-an-der-eu-grenze-medien.2897.de.html?dram:article_id=503898 [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

IMHOFF, G. (2019). Kroatien erfüllt alle Bedingungen für Beitritt zum Schengen-Raum. [online] Deutschland – European Commission. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/germany/news/20191022-kroatien_de [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Kroatiens Innenminister Davor Božinović gibt Misshandlungen von Flüchtlingen durch Polizisten zu. (2021). Der Spiegel. [online] 8 Oct. Available at: https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/kroatien-innenminister-davor-bozinovic-gibt-misshandlungen-von-fluechtlingen-zu-a-8d22592d-0ce3-44b9-8b71-c94e62f08c14 [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF). (2021). Pushbacks an EU-Grenze – Video-Beweis: Kroatische Polizisten prügeln Migranten aus der EU. [online] Available at: https://www.srf.ch/news/international/pushbacks-an-eu-grenze-video-beweis-kroatische-polizisten-pruegeln-migranten-aus-der-eu [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

tagesschau.de (2021). Bosnisch-kroatische Grenze: Maskierte prügeln Migranten aus der EU. [online] tagesschau.de. Available at: https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/pushbacks-gewalt-bosnien-kroatien-101.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2021].

The frachcollective

What stands in the center for us, is the solidarity with refugees and people on the move. It is therefore important for us to be in constant exchange with these people in order to be able to respond to actual needs. Currently, access to basic needs such as food, sanitation and medical care is largely not guaranteed, which is why we focus primarily on covering these. A mainly symptom-oriented approach is unfortunately difficult to avoid in the current situation. Besides trying to cover basic needs and the active representation of human rights, we also want to increase our focus on building up long-term projects in cooperation with other, especially local, people and organizations.

We see the frachcollective as a self-governed, grassroot collective built on the principles of direct democracy and equal rights. We strive to abolish hierarchies and to take decisions by consensus. We actively speak out against all forms of discrimination and misanthropy and value an open and respectful interaction with each other as well as with other people and groups. Accordingly, we always try to act anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-fascist. This includes reflecting and questioning our own role and the role of the collective in general but especially here in the field. Our mainly very privileged positions imply structural power imbalances on different levels, not only towards the people on the move, which need to be thought about. The context in which our work takes place is itself marked by inequalities regarding structural, economical and political possibilities. This easily leads to a reproduction of certain hierarchies and therefore requires constant questioning and efforts of one’s own cultural sensitivity and motivation.

We are located in Bihać (Bosnia&Herzegovina) directly at the external border of the EU and try to support refugees in transit. Since the context, in which we are working is very complex, a thorough preparation for the local conditions is essential. We try to integrate our understanding of the local structures, the population and the economic, political and social situation in our work here. The Bosnian war was only 26 years ago: the self-assignment and structural separation into different ethnic groups and the resulting conflicts continue to exist for the most part. The consequences of the war are still present everywhere. The city of Bihać itself has an important historical past that is still present in the cityscape.

The organization and group structure of our collective are still in construction. On the one hand, that’s because the group hasn’t existed for so long. On the other hand, this flexibility is something we want to actively maintain over the next (hopefully) years. Most decisions are taken by the people in the field. Thus the group and working structure is always changing. In order to still have a certain basis on which to work and represent the collective, it is important that certain values and ethical principles are fixed and that the transfer of knowledge is guaranteed.

Being in the field means to be confronted with a situation that often seems hopeless. People’s freedom of choice is enormously restricted, basic needs are denied, people are physically and psychologically abused and tortured. We are powerless against most of this and can only try to deal with some of the symptoms, often inadequately. That is why we want to carry the experiences we make in Bosnia back to the EU. Because the causes for the miserable conditions in the field lie in Europe, in it’s policy of sealing-off and it’s border regime.

We as a collective demand the abolition of all camps and freedom of movement for all people. Fight fortress Europe!