Are You Syrious?
Mar 14 · 7 min read

In February 2019 a green-eyed girl, around 13 years old with a round face and a charming smile, fronted an advertising campaign on IOM - UN Migration’s social networks. The girl attends school and the institution proudly showed how well she spoke Bosnian. Her access to education is an achievement within the context of neglect currently existing in Bosnia in regards to refugee people. (scroll down for Spanish)

Entrance to Sedra, one of the IOM run centres in Bosnia. Photo AYS.

We are not going to show the photograph of the girl here. For what I know about this girl — and we do know each other from the time when she and her family were surviving in the unberable conditions of the makeshift camp of Trnovi, near Velika Kladuša — she doesn’t really like to be photographed for being a refugee, but she loves pleasing others and feels comfortable when she does so.

On this Facebook page — posted by this UN body that receives funds from the European Union in order to attend people trapped between EU borders who have no hope of being granted refugee status — there are many comments, happily talking about how great it is that this child has learned Bosnian.

What many of these people probably don’t know is that this girl has been on the move for three years.

The IOM states that the girl learned Bosnian in eight months. This is not true. She learned the language during the three years she was trapped behind the EU closed borders in Serbia. IOM is always “sitting on the fence” and this makes their rhetoric hardly credible. It actually makes them seem hypocritical — although I believe this word conveys anger and I know a text of this kind should be as neutral as possible.

The IOM feeds on funds which come from Brussels. It acts according to its own rules, but at the same time, it assists people whose lives have been stripped of their rights due to the European Union closed-borders policy (a few weeks ago, the IOM also received funds from Qatar, a rich country and one of the Gulf countries that has hardly taken in any refugees within their borders). As I wrote, these people have been stripped of their rights and expelled from their countries because of violence — which is the result of Western economic and political interests.

Actually, IOM is an organization which — even when it is the primary one responsible for the lives of millions of people — has still not publicly stated that refugee people who dare cross the border towards a EU country to get to safety, will more than likely be beaten by the Croatian police. It seems that IOM does not want to bite the hand that feeds it.

In Serbia, the UN Refugee Agency — also a UN body — recognised and publicly condemned this violence against refugee people who tried to cross the border towards the European Union. At least during an interview with one of UNHCR’s representatives in Belgrade, she mentioned this issue before I did.

The same girl in camp Trnovi several months before the IOM moved her and her family to the Sedra center. After the rain, the shelter she lived in with her family was lost and this is all they had in the morning. Local people and volunteers were there to help.

The same girl of the advertising campaign was shouting — amidst a flooded field where some independent volunteers were helping to fix their tents — “Where is the Red Cross?, Where is IOM?, Where is UNHCR?”. She was not shouting the names randomly. She knew these organizations perfectly well because she had been living for two years as a refugee on the move. She had gone through Bulgaria, Serbia and was now trapped in Bosnia.

I was shocked by the campaign because I knew this girl. Someone might think the campaign is moving. The girl surely speaks Bosnian — but not because she has spent eight fruitful months in Bosnia, but rather because she has remained trapped for three years in some country of the former Yugoslavia.

When I got to know her in June she already spoke Serbian. These countries, with very similar languages, are in front of the European closed borders for someone who comes fleeing conflict. And here is where this wonderful girl has been condemned to live.

The fact that she attends school is certainly good news. The facts that she has been living in refugee camps for three years, that her parents do not have the right to work and that, like their daughter, they hardly have anything at all is an atrocity. As is also the administrative silence in the face of their asylum applications, which forces this girl, her even younger sister, her three-year-old brother and her parents to try to cross the border hiding in the woods during long days and nights in order to be able to reach safety at least for some time.

(Written by Bécares // Translated by Clemen Talvy)


Es febrero de 2019. Una niña con ojos verdes, cara regordeta, que ronda los 13 años y sonríe entrañable, protagoniza una campaña publicitaria que hace IOM en sus redes sociales. La niña va a la escuela y se enorgullecen desde la institución lo bien que habla bosnio. Su acceso a la educación es un logro dentro de la situación de abandono que existe en Bosnia con las personas refugiadas.

La foto no la vamos a replicar en este escrito porque lo qué sé de esa niña es que, realmente no le gusta verse fotografiada por ser refugiada, aunque al mismo tiempo, le encanta complacer a los demás y se siente cómoda agradando.

Quienes comentan en esta publicación de Facebook de esta organización de las Naciones Unidas, la cual recibe el dinero que la Unión Europa envía para atender a las personas que están atrapadas tras sus fronteras sin poder aspirar a un asilo, comentan contentas lo bonito que es que la criatura haya aprendido la lengua.

Lo que igual no saben la mayoría de personas que ven ese logro, es que esa niña lleva tres años en el camino.

La organización dice que la niña ha aprendido el idioma en ocho meses. Mentira. Lo ha aprendido en casi tres años que lleva atrapada frente a las fronteras cerradas de la Unión Europea. IOM siempre está en el medio de dos aguas y eso hace su discurso poco creíble. En realidad lo hace hipócrita, pero esa palabra siento que incluye algo de rabia dentro y en un escrito, una debe de tratar de ser lo más neutral que pueda.

La organización se nutre de fondos de Bruselas, actúa de acuerdo a sus reglas, pero al mismo tiempo atiende a gente cuyas vidas están despojadas de derechos por la política de cierre de fronteras que llega desde la misma Unión Europea (también hace unas semanas recibió un fondo de Qatar, país rico, que es uno de esos del Golfo que practicamente no ha aceptado refugiados dentro de sus fronteras); y sus cuerpos están desterrados de sus países por la violencia, que es una consecuencia de los intereses económicos y políticos de Occidente.

De hecho, IOM es una organización que, a pesar de tener la mayor parte de responsabilidad sobre la vida de miles de personas, aún no ha querido decir públicamente que las personas refugiadas que se atreven a cruzar la frontera, camino a algún país de la Unión Europa en el que aspirar a un asilo seguro, confrontan posibles palizas de la policía croata. Parece ser que la organización no quiere critican a los mismos que les dan de comer. En Serbia, ACNUR, también agencia de las Naciones Unidas, reconocía y denunciaba públicamente esa violencia contra los refugiados cuando se iban a cruzar la frontera en dirección a la Unión Europea. Al menos, en una entrevista con una de sus representantes en Belgrado, fue ella quien me sacó ese tema, antes de sacárselo yo.

Esa misma niña hacía unos meses, gritaba en un prado inundado donde unos voluntarios independientes ayudaban a recomponer sus tiendas de campaña, que “Where is Red Cross, where is IOM, where is UNHCR?”. No decía nombres al azar. Los conocía, porque llevaba más de dos años de refugiada en el camino. Había pasado por Bulgaria, por Serbia, ahora estaba en Bosnia. Conociendo a la niña, la campaña publicitaria me chocó. Para el receptor, podría ser entrañable. Esa niña, sí habla bosnio, pero no por ocho meses productivos en Bosnia. Es porque lleva tres años atrapada en algún país de la antigua Yugoslavia. Cuando la conocí en junio, ella ya hablaba serbio. Y es que estos países de lengua casi exacta, están plantados frente a unas fronteras europeas cerradas al que viene de fuera escapando de conflictos. Y ahí se ha visto esta maravillosa niña condenada a vivir.

Que vaya al colegio es una alegría. Que lleve tres años viviendo en campos, con unos padres que no tienen derecho a trabajar, que no tienen, igual que sus hijas, a casi nada, es una aberración. Que el silencio administrativo a las peticiones de asilo obliguen a esta niña, su hermana, aún más pequeña, su hermano de unos tres años ahora y sus padres, a cruzar la frontera durante largos días y noches escondidos por bosques para poder aspirar a una asilo seguro, al menos durante un tiempo

(Escrito por B. Bécares // Traducido por Clemen Talvy)


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Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

Are You Syrious?

Written by

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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