20 governments participate in the Vienna ICMPD and finance or receive its activities. The ÖVP-affiliated organisation handles migration control for the EU.
Every year, the EU spends hundreds of millions of euros to manage and counter migration in third countries. Every year, the EU spends hundreds of millions of euros to manage and fight migration to third countries. Most of the money comes from three different funds and goes to the countries themselves or to EU members who award contracts to companies or institutes for implementing the measures. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) also receives such EU funding for migration control.
One of the private organisations contracted to deliver EU measures is the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), founded in 1993 and based in Vienna. It is headed by the conservative Austrian ex-vice chancellor and former Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) leader Michael Spindelegger. The 20 members include states such as Turkey, Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina and, since 2020, also Germany. Many of the ICMPD’s measures are funded from Austria, a parliamentary question by the Greens revealed.
Now the centre is to draft proposals for „EU migration partnerships“, in which third countries receive benefits if they take back deportees from EU states. With a similar aim, the ICMPD is implementing a „regional return mechanism for the Western Balkans“. The states are supported in carrying out deportations themselves. The German government has funded this initiative with €3.2 million in 2020 and calls it „migration management“.
On behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, the ICMPD is also involved in the construction of a „Temporary Detention Centre“ in the newly built Bosnian refugee camp Lipa and received €500,000 from the EU Commission for this purpose. This is documented in an EU document published on Friday by the German organisation Frag den Staat as part of a research on the ICMPD. The camp is run by the IOM, and Germany is supporting its construction through the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) with €1 million for a canteen.
The purpose of the camp in Lipa had been unequivocally explained by Oliver Várhelyi, the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, who comes from Hungary. „We need to keep our detention facilities in Lipa and the region under control, meaning that the fake asylum-seekers must be detained until they return to their countries of origin. Again, we will replicate this project in other countries of the region“, said the EU Commissioner.
„A high fence, cameras at every step, windows with prison bars and almost no daylight in the cells,“ is how the organisation SOS-Balkanroute, which is active in Austria, described everyday life there and titled it in a press release „This is what the Austrian Guantanamo in Bosnia looks like“.
The ICMPD feels attacked by this. The organisation was „of course not involved in the construction of detention cells or similar“, a spokesperson initially claimed in response to an enquiry by the APA agency. However, ICMPD head Spindelegger rowed back shortly afterwards and explained in the programme „Zeit im Bild“ that his organisation was responsible for the construction of a „secured area for a maximum of twelve persons“. According to Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Elmedin Konakovic, this was a „room for the short-term internment of migrants“.
Despite its denial, the ICMPD is now taking action against SOS Balkanroute and its founder Petar Rosandić and has filed a lawsuit for „credit damage“ at the Vienna Commercial Court because of the designation „Austrian Guantanamo“. „Our only concern is to stop the continued false allegations,“ an ICMPD spokesperson explained, including that the organisation was pushing the suffering of people.
This is an attempt at political intimidation, „the kind of which we are used to seeing in Hungary, Russia or Serbia“, said Rosandić, the NGO’s founder, commenting on the complaint. The Green member of the National Council Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic feels reminded of „conditions under Orban in Hungary“ and expects „the necessary consequences“ from other ICMPD signatory states. Germany does not want to hear about this. The Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of the Interior in Berlin let a deadline of several days set by „nd“ for comment pass without response.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The camp Lipa in 2021 (IOM).
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