De Fabel van de illegaal 65/66, summer 2004

Author: De Fabel van de illegaal

For the freedom of migration! Against the IOM!

Recently De Fabel van de illegaal has published a number of very critical articles on the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This criticism has now been brought together in a leaflet which will be handed out on meetings and actions. Here's the complete text.

Nowadays the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is almost always present where immigrants, refugees and their support organizations can be found. The IOM tries to convince refugees and immigrants to "return voluntarily", and support groups are invited to join in reaching that goal. The organization carefully cherishes its humanitarian image. But that image is not justified at all, because the IOM is heavily criticized. Here are the 8 most important critiques.

1. The IOM "voluntary return" programs are crucial to the governmental social exclusion policy.

Through the introduction of the social fiscal number, the Linking Act and the new Foreign Law the Dutch government has in recent years made the social exclusion of the undocumented almost complete. Although the IOM says it supports immigrants, the organization has never protested against this administrative apartheid and only helps to remove the victims of this harsh policy. The IOM organizes "voluntary return" for undocumented immigrants and refugees who are not able to survive any longer in this apartheid situation. But under such circumstances "returning" can of course never be "voluntary". The Dutch government promotes "voluntary return" because that seems to be more "orderly" than forceful deportation.

2. The IOM pays immigrants to leave and tries to create the false hope that life in their countries of origin is better.

The IOM argues that rejected immigrants and refugees can almost not survive in the Netherlands anymore. According to the organization life in the countries of origin would be far less miserable. But most refugees and immigrants know better. They came to the Netherlands for good reasons and do not want to go back. Even with all their money and education the IOM still isn't able to convince many refugees and immigrants to "return voluntarily". But as the apartheid grows worse, their numbers might grow. The 200 euros on average and the short education immigrants and refugees receive when leaving, are mostly meant to make a humane impression on Dutch society.

3. The IOM aims to control migration in the interest of governments and the economy.

The IOM was founded in 1951 as a counterpart of more humanitarian organizations. The main goal of the IOM is to chart global migration flows in order to develop the most efficient control policy. In practice the IOM also functions as an international job agency. It directs migrants and refugees to countries where the economy can use them and lets them "return voluntarily" when they are no longer needed. That curbs the autonomy of migrants and refugees to decide whether, where and when to travel.

4. The IOM is used by governments to get round international human rights law.

Within the IOM 91 states cooperate, including the Netherlands. These governments have decided that the IOM is "immune", meaning that national law doesn't apply to the organization. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch the IOM can, as a result of this "immunity", disregard human rights law through "certain border control and deterrent measures, to arbitrary and unlawful detention to encouraging premature return to countries of origin". On the Pacific island of Nauru the IOM runs a complete prison camp in which refugees are locked up before they can reach Australia to apply for asylum. In this way the IOM offers states the possibility to act as if they keep their hands clean.

5. The IOM offers governments all over the world practical aid at the upgrading of border control and the building of refugee prisons.

Most states only want to allow in migrants and refugees which they can use. They try to keep the rest out. To do so most governments continually upgrade migration policies. The IOM helps them at that. The organization also delivers anti-migration technology like radio communication and infrared apparatuses, trains police and military border officers, and builds border control posts and prisons.

6. The IOM does little to help victims of women's trafficking, but does abuse their stories to keep other women from fleeing or migrating.

In Macedonia and Nigeria the IOM campaigns to keep women from migrating, because they "would always end up in prostitution". That women who "return voluntary" with the aid of the IOM actually end up in prostitution forced by poverty, the organization does not consider a problem. The IOM has simply put prostitution on the list of possible professions for "voluntary returning" Angolan women. The organization usually depicts the victims of trafficking very one-sided as pitiful and mislead. Thereby ignoring the global oppression which makes women migrate through arranged marriages, or as domestic workers or prostitutes.

7. The IOM adheres to a nationalist ideology which revolves around "homelands".

All "migration policies" are by definition nationalist because they are based on separate rules for "foreigners" and for "the own population". The IOM believes that people always belong in their land and "culture" of origin. That is why it also tries to make already accepted refugees and even former refugees with Dutch passports to "return voluntarily". Once a foreigner, always a foreigner, the organization seems to think. Even in the case of children born to refugees and immigrants in the Netherlands the IOM speaks of "returning".

8. The IOM is that part of the deportation machine which tries to gather information on and get into contact with immigrants and refugees.

The IOM is paid by the government and is officially a "chain partner" in the Dutch "migration policy". It works together with the immigration service IND, the border police Marechaussee, the foreign police and the state refugee organization COA. The IOM nevertheless nourishes a "neutral" image in order to keep into contact with immigrant and refugee support groups which are the ideal coalition partners for the IOM "voluntary return" programs. Support groups are of course trusted by refugees and immigrants and are often in daily contact with them. Through these groups the IOM also manages to get a lot of information on migration flows.

This leaflet is made by the anti-racist organization De Fabel van de illegaal (The Myth of illegality). For more information on the IOM and migration control, see: <>, or call 071-5127619 or mail: <>.