Vienna, 20.11.2019

We, concerned European citizens, demand the politicians, institutions of the Austrian state, and consequently the EU and the UN, to react and provide immediate action to help the refugees in the Vučjak Camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

In the late summer of 2019, the local authorities in the town of Bihać decided to translocate refugees from different camps scattered around the area to an improvised (and illegal) camp they built on a former waste depository in Vučjak, located northwest of Bihać in the vicinity of Croatian border. The Vučjak camp is overcrowded, filled with up to 1000 refugees, who face horrendous conditions there. The camp has no electricity or running water, and the tents are not fit for winter. The site is guarded by police, who by force continue to deport refugees from Bihać and other parts of the country there, while very little medical assistance is being procured to the camp by MSF. Food is being now insufficiently delivered and only covers 10% of the needed food. Water is not being delivered daily and is mostly not enough for all.

Volunteers are only allowed to a certain extent. The Vučjak camp was defined by UN Special Rapporteur in October 2019 as inhumane and inappropriate for accommodating human beings.
Though it was announced by the mayor of Bihać that the camp will be closed, there is still no date for the refugee’s relocation and now it looks like the camp will not be closed at all. Consequently, the winter season is approaching and local organizations fear that the health crisis will rapidly worsen as a result of the decomposing waste and rampant degradation of the infrastructures will result in serious health hazards such as hypothermia, epidemics and fatalities.

There are no options for those that want to leave the camp to reach Croatia and BiH has no strategy for them either. Croatian police are using illegal harsh methods, so-called “push backs” of refugees, instantaneous rejections against the law of legal demands by the refugees for asylum as well as police brutality present in violent attacks and dispossessions of vital necessities. The refugees are being then immediately sent back to Bosnia and Herzegovina without the necessary registrations and other legal requirements in such situations.  Since January 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina is experiencing a very amplified influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the closing of the borders between Serbia-Hungary and Serbia-Croatia. The number of refugees that went through this Balkan route, during 2018 and 2019, oscillates between 23.000 and 35.000.

During 2019 Croatian border patrols, as exposed by numerous reports, have intensified the harsh treatment of refugees at the border.
Arye Wachsmuth, a well-known Austrian artist and member of the Volunteer Team Vučjak, is regularly assisting the refugees on the spot, stated that “the Vučjak camp is the symbol of all other undignified refugees’ camps in Europe. We are obliged in Europe to preserve all human rights conventions after the dissolution of the so-called Vučjak camp! The illegal push backs of refugees by Croatian border police and authorities have to be stopped. These measures are violations of international law and have to have legal consequences.”

Sara Lalić, an activist and program coordinator of Centre for Peace Studies, a civil society organization based in Zagreb, Croatia, spoke on the situation in a public interview (October 2019) given for the research project  Genealogy of Amnesia. She identifies a sequence of dramatic changes from 2015/2016 until today regarding the Balkan Route as the asylum seekers were denied passage and their status turned  completely illegal. Lalić exposes that the Croatian Ministry of Internal affairs claims that the civil society, NGOs, human rights organizations and lawyers are providing false allegations, as a result, the ombudswoman was marginalized and to her is continuously denied information on what is going on.

It is the various reasons for the lack of the EU institutions monitoring of the refugees’ disastrous condition at Vučjak camp and in the area. Croatia functions as a guardian of Fortress Europe and will be rewarded with Croatia entering the Schengen EU, this tendency is also present in other member countries such as Italy and Greece, according to Lalić. Although practices are in line with policy regarding the protection of Fortress Europe, these harsh and illegal practices of border control seem tolerated by EU institutions.
What is the role of the EU and its mechanisms for the protection of refugees’ human rights and against the violations of refugee human rights?

Mohammad Numan, one of the key figures of The Refugee Protest Camp Vienna in 2012, says, “I do not want to hear any more sad stories about people who lose their lives to reach safer countries. I also experienced this situation in 2012. It is important to bring up this topic in the Austrian public and media about the brutality of Croatian border police.
They are not letting the people inside, and this is similar to the situation of Hungary and Serbia in the past.”

What is going on in the Vučjak camp and around it can be seen as concerns of the governments of the states involved. But it is, on the contrary, an EU problem, it is the problem of all the member states of EU and that means the problem of Austria as well, of us Europeans and of all those politicians that we elected to represent us in the EU.

Arye Wachsmuth
Sara Bissen
Mohammad Numan
Marina Gržinić
Šefik Tatlić
Jovita Pristovšek
Sophia Yuet See
Beatriz Freitas
Veronika Hapchenko
Maren Grimm
Nathalie Ann Köbli
Margaret Caemmerer
Robert Jolly
Julia Hohenwarter
Mathias Kropfitsch
Leonie Knez
Sophie Anna Stadler
Cathérine Lehnerer
Clifford Ernmwionghae
Maira Caixeta
Dirk Planert
Filis Bilgin
Georg Hochecker
Sophie Lille


  • Dieser Call – ausgehenden von Studierenden und Unterrichtenden der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien – sollte eigentlich auf der Webseite der Akademie veröffentlicht werden. Dazu ist es aber nie gekommen.


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