Be aware: the IOM is haunting

07.Sep.02 - The following article will be published in the English magazin CARF (Campaign against Racism and Fascism), No. 68, Autumn 2002. It raises attention to the fact that the IOM is now opening offices in more and more European countries too, such as France and Spain, and takes over responsibilities for return enforcement and increasingly recruitment of foreign workers.

It has been only recently, that the International Organisation for Migration has opened a representation in the UK. After having tried a pilot project to return refused asylum seekers from the UK, at that time based at the Brussels office, this has been assessed 'successful' after 490 people have been flown out of the country. Consequently, a full-scale operation has been launched. The Home Office increasingly turn to outsourcing elements of their politics, such as running detention by private businesses. There also is a tradition of funding NGOs like the Refugee Council to cover some aspects of asylum and immigration policy. Meanwhile, the IOM has quickly established a number of schemes and cooperations. These are the Voluntary Assisted Return Programme (VARP), Return and Reintegration to Somalia Regions, Return and Reintegration of Qualified Ugandan Nationals, and Counter Trafficking. The IOM also accommodate Home Office seminars in countries as far as Kasachstan, Kirgisian or Tadjikistan on topics like preventing 'illegal' migration, or fraudulent documents. All these schemes rely on the cooperation either with academics, with NGOs like refugee Action or of cause the Home Office. Some of these have a record of either supporting asylum seekers and refugees as Refugee Action does, or to lobby around issues of women's rights. At a first glance one might assume, that these programmes, supporting victims of female trafficking, assisting those returning home who lack the funds to realise this are perfectly alright. Though that isn't quite true. Indeed, only, last year the Roma National Congress released an international call for solidarity accusing this organisation to be the enemy of the Roma people because it plays a crucial role in expelling the Roma people from Western Europe. That shall ring the alarm bells and calls for a closer look at the IOM, its history, politics and policies.

It has been founded in 1951 on initiative of the USA as another expression of the cold war and the Truman doctrine. Under its initial name (Provisional) Inter-Governmental Committee on Migration in Europe it was founded as a counter agency to the UNHCR, the ICME in opposite to the humanitarian principles of the UNHCR has been based upon economic considerations. Other than the UN, which is based on international law and agreements the ICME/IOM is a membership organisation. It is therefore not accountable to any democratically elected body but to its members and only these define its politics. It is therefore in the words of Tony Bunyan 'a very dangerous organisation'. Since 1989, the IOM has been transformed into a transnational agency for the global management of migration for the sake of economics and the New Order. Its individual programmes are embedded in a wider approach of migration management that is deeply based upon neoliberal ideology which makes an economically founded distinction between desirable and undesirable migration. The IOM has rapidly extended its influence by opening 19 regional offices, over 100 field offices, a number of other agencies like the Technical Cooperation Centre in Vienna and several temporary representation. They basically cover the whole world. Since their founding, they have interfered in the lives of more than 11 million people, and in 2000 alone their facilitated the movement of about 450.000 people. For this purpose the IOM negotiated a 60 % discount for their flights with many airlines, which has turned into a huge business. A campaigning leaflet indeed accuses them being the world's largest 'human trafficker'. From experiences in Germany, where they facilitated the return of 75.000 people in 2000 it is known that despite the fact that the IOM claims to only support voluntary returns these are often nothing else than removals or disguised deportations, often of rejected asylum seekers who therefore have been deprived of all benefits leaving them destitute and desperate enough to sign an agreement with the IOM. And equally, its over 100 missions, described as an 'early warning system on migration' rather represent a global net of spies against migrants and their supporters. These posts are aimed to detect migration routes and patterns, to give advice to governments alike and to train border troops on new technologies. Their information campaigns and seminars run in places such as Sangatte, Macedonia or Aserbeidjan, they target professionals or migrants, they are often disguised as measures to prevent women trafficking though the overall aim basically is to discourage further migration.

There is ground to deeply mistrust the International Organisation for Migration and one has to be very careful to cooperate with such an agency, the Roma National Congress has already expressed its grave concerns about the IOM, the Campaign to Compensate Victims of Nazi Slave Work' has equally expressed its criticism about the IOM's responsibility in delaying the payment; the Polish prostitutes organisation La Strada already terminated its initial cooperation with the IOM, and activists in Poland and Ukraine are angry about the IOM's role in implementing new border regimes. It would indeed be advisable to any honest NGO to terminate any collaboration.

Finally, the European NoBorder network has agreed in campaigning 'Against the global migration regime - for freedom of movement' with a focus on the IOM and calls for an International Day of Action between 11 to 13 October. Protests are already planned in several countries. No Border (For further information or to contact the campaign: