by Emir SULJAGIC
The story, told to Dani by a Swedish diplomat, could not be checked with the Una-Sana police. Our interlocutor demanded to remain anonymous and admitted that many policemen resign and then leave the country, mostly through illegal channels. The size of the last emigration wave, which started in the middle of the last year in Bosnia-Hercegovina, can hardly be estimated at this time. Director of the State Statistical Agency Hasan Zolic says that this institution does not have any data about the number of emigrants. Bosnian politicians avoid this issue, just like European politicians. The number of illegal immigrants from Bosnia-Hercegovina in the countries of Western Europe was until mid-2000 "acceptable" and within the limits "acceptable" for those countries. However, between then and the end of the year, during several months in the summer and the autumn, the number increased several times. The number of illegal immigrants, only in Sweden, was 4,200. The trend continued, so that within the first two months of 2001, another 700 citizens of Bosnia-Hercegovina requested asylum in this country.
Death in truck: Immigrants cross borders hidden in baggage compartments of busses or in truck trailers; sometimes they risk their lives and try to cross border undetected, away from legal border crossings, walking through forests and crossing rivers. Border patrols frequently shoot at them, but so far there haven't been any victims. Even the bad experiences of the past emigrants were unable to stem the emigrant tide that washed on the continent after the end of the war. The death of one of them, a 24-years-old young man from Bratunac, Nesib Muhic, only briefly shocked the public and shook up the hopes of all those who see their future somewhere on the other side of Bosnian borders.
Muhic is one of numerous anonymous victims about whose death very little is known. Even less is known about his life. His father Sado was captured early in the war. He survived an execution and in May 1992 joined his family in besieged Srebrenica. However, he did not live to see the end of the war. He and elder son Hasib were murdered in July 1995, after the fall of the enclave. Only Nesib managed to survive, pushing in a decimated column past Serb ambushes, and reach Tuzla. Six years after the war, in September last year, he enrolled at the Police academy in Banja Luka. By attending the school he was preparing to return as a policeman to Srebrenica. However, from this perspective, it seems that he could not overcome his past. In early September he decided to try to leave the country.
Twice he tried to unsuccessfully cross the German-Swedish border. In the third attempt, he tried his luck in a truck trailer that, besides tens of cardboard boxes of crackers, also transported about forty illegal immigrants. From Rostock, where Nesib probably boarded, they traveled for six hours in an unbearably stuffy trailer, literally lying on top of each other, to the border crossing in Trelleborg. According to one of Nesib's fellow travelers, who experienced that journey with her small children, Nesib was alive when the truck left the ferry and headed further inside Sweden. Feeling that he was suffocating, Nesib used a borrowed knife to cut an opening on the top of the trailer to let air in. When the truck stopped in Malmo, the driver, allegedly a citizen of Bosnia, counted the passengers. After several counts, it turned out that one of them was missing. Nesib's lifeless body was found behind the boxes, in a corner of the trailer. The driver panicked, threw the corpse on the pavement and drove away. The passengers, also scared, dispersed through the city.
This young man, who had survived three years of the siege of Srebrenica, and then passed the trail of death between Srebrenica and Tuzla, died in a truck trailer, illegally passing borders of two countries. His absurd death, witnessed by his fellow passengers, speaks volumes about our values. Lonely in the crowd of forty people, he had to, while dying, ask for help. No one wanted or could help him. The police investigation, which hasn't been completed, does not look into that. The circumstances of his death are irrelevant. The investigation that continues to disturb members of the numerous Bosnian community in Malmo, is focusing on the channel used by Nasib to come to Sweden.
The investigators at this moment have only one name. The diplomatic sources in Sarajevo state that Safet Muhic, a citizen of Bosnia, who had been living in Malmo for the last few years, has been found guilty of smuggling of illegal emigrants. To make everything much worse, before the war he was a neighbor of the unfortunate young man. Nasib's mother Remzija, who lives alone in a damp cellar of a house in Donja Josanica, near Vogosca [near Sarajevo], confirmed that assertion. She says that her son before the departure talked several times with Safet's elder brother Sakib. Sakib sold Nasib, claims Remzija, a guarantee letter needed for a visa of one of the European Union countries for $600. The second installment, of $1200, was supposed to be paid to Safet after the arrival in Sweden. Now it is definitely known that Nesib did not have in his passport either a German or French visa, as was claimed previously. Once he somehow made it to Germany, Nesib contacted two persons - Safet and his mother. He contacted Safet to find out when he was going to continue his journey, and his mother to let her know that he was fine. His "Bosnian dream" - to be born in Bosnia, to leave the country and have a decent life, suffer from nostalgia and return home in old age to die there, will not come through.
"Captain" first to leave ship: Actually, Nesib is only one of few survivors from Srebrenica who struggled long with the idea of leaving the country. Many of them left immediately after the war. Sadik Selimovic, the envoy of the Bratunac Municipality in Vogosca [where many residents of Srebrenica and Bratunac settled after the end of the war], claims that at least 4,117 to 4,2000 asylum seekers in Sweden are originally from Srebrenica and neighboring municipalities. And, as has always been the case with Srebrenica, victims were first abandoned by those who were supposed to be with them until the end. The mayor of Srebrenica form the time when it was a "safe heaven", Adem Salihovic, left to Switzerland last summer. Before him, wartime defense commander Suljo Hasanovic and one of two wartime mayors Osman Suljic, went to Netherlands. None of the three of them was ever held accountable for possible responsibility for the situation in the enclave before as well as during its fall. The rest only followed their example. In the meantime the country was left by some of the people who made Srebrenica what it was during the war, who did not soil their hands with civilian blood or flour from the humanitarian assistance. Without work, discharged form military service as hundred percent disabled, Midhat Salihovic, a former deputy commander for training in the 28th division, has emigrated. Izet Ademovic the commander of the reconnaissance-sabotage unit, also went to Sweden, followed by Hajrudin Malagic, one of former close collaborators of Naser Oric.
Whole families are leaving, giving the last cent to pay for the difficult journey. Their journey begins in front of embassies in the crowds or lines for visas. This is the territory of "acquirers", as our interlocutor from the Police refers to them. Their job is to identify those interested in leaving the country, and then agree on the price and the transportation method. Once a deal is made, the "acquirer" orders a guarantee letter from a western European country, from the person on the other end of the chain. Guarantors are usually Bosnian citizens who have been living for a long time abroad, or German, Italian or Austrian nationals who help their Bosnian friends to "bring their relatives for a visit". Every time there is a different guarantor, as the same name, used twice in a row, would definitely prompt unnecessary suspicion of both the embassy workers and the Police.
Depending on the reliability and the sort of connections people smugglers have in embassies, guaranties can cost between $500 and $750. After a visa is issued, a bus trip to Germany follows. The destination is one of the two best known gathering points for immigrants - Hamburg or Rostock. With visas to fifteen days or a month, and rapidly depleted financial reserves, the immigrants stay there for ten days at most, trying to reach another member of the chain. He organizes transport, negotiates the number of passengers in one "transport", the time and method for border crossing, regardless of whether two or forty passengers are involved. After the arrival to the destination, the money, usually between $1250 and $1500 is paid to him or the third member of the chain, who waits for the passengers.
The other method perhaps seems more secure, but it is more expensive and equally difficult. This one goes through Slovenia and Italy, and then further to the west and north of Europe. Razija K., whose husband disappeared in Srebrenica, traveling with two children, the elder of whom was aged ten, chose that possibility. She traveled with a Bosnian passport to Slovenia, to Novo Mesto, where an elderly man was waiting for her at a previously agreed spot. She did not know his name. He only told her that he had been born in Bosnia-Hercegovina and that he had been living in Slovenia for a while. She spent the next four days in the cellar of his house. She did not go out at any time because her host was afraid of the Police, as his neighbors had intervened several times previously calling the Police after they had noticed strangers in the neighborhood. Early in the morning, on the fifth day, she was awakened by the knocking on the door. The passports were ready for the continuation of the journey and it was time to leave. She practiced her new name on the way to the border and tried to think of a plausible explanation for the difference between the actual age of her children and the age given in the passport. A stranger, a man, left her and the children at the train station in a town on the other side of the border, taking, before he disappeared half of the agreed amount, in this case $1250.
The "connection" was late several hours. She was a blond woman of the same age as Razija. They traveled the whole next day to Rostock, where they waited for the ferry to Trelleborg. On the ferry the escort stood away from them, in case policemen found out that the passport was a fake. Indeed the passport was spotted at the control and Razija went through several hours of questioning. Policemen wanted to know where she was from, how and with whom she had arrived there, who escorted her, whether someone was waiting for her, but she successfully pretended to be dumb. When after the questioning Razija left the police station on the other side of the street she saw a woman shaking from cold. That was her escort who was waiting for the second half of the money.
Cooling passports: Mevlida Smailovic, who also traveled with her children, had a similar experience. She may have chosen the most difficult route, on which smugglers, because of rigorous controls at the Danish border, frequently fail. Escorted by an Albanian she managed to enter Denmark, but police appeared unexpectedly in the train on the Danish-Swedish border. The escort ran away fearing the control, but it turned out that the policemen did not intend to check passports at all. Razija calmly waited in the compartment until the train reached its destination and then asked the first policeman she met for the nearest transit center.
The least frequently used route for Sweden leads through Finland. It is relatively safe, but the Finish visa is very hard to get, not only because the nearest embassy is in Zagreb [in Croatia]. Ibro A. recently had a chance to experience that himself. He intended to travel through Finland to the "promised land" in the north of Europe. Joint borders, obviously, besides advantages, have some distinct disadvantages. Nihad M. a young man from Bihac who has been trying to leave Bosnia for several years is counting exactly on them. And his plan is equally original as the previous one. He, namely, wants to reach Norway through Sweden.
Definitely safest, most comfortable, but also the most expensive way to leave the country is by airplane. With a Slovenian passport, whose price on the black market is about $2500, immigrants fly from Zagreb or Budapest directly to Stockholm. Of course, the other end of the chain waits at the airport. The immigrant hands over to him the passport and the second half of the money. The passport is then briefly pulled from the game, to let it cool until the next opportunity. After Sweden abolished visas for the citizens of Croatia, the Croatian passport has also entered use. It is cheaper than the Slovenian passport and instead of in Zagreb the flight originates at one of the airports in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
There are many ways to leave the country, but only one to come back. Escorted by the police. Majority of illegal immigrants, says Kasia Torqvist, the chief of the visa division in the Swedish embassy in Sarajevo, will be deported. Five hundred individuals will very soon experience that. Their asylum requests have been rejected. Economic troubles do not provide a basis for asylum, and exactly that is the reason given by the Bosnian immigrants. But, what when they come back? Without money paid to the smugglers, without an apartment, job, or future. Where? Again abroad?
Based on a report of one of cheated citizens, who stood for days in front of the German embassy waiting for a visa he had paid for in advance, our interlocutor arrested Mirzeta Matoruga. She, according to the official complaint of the plaintiff Admir Ahmic, took $500 and in return promised a guarantee letter for a German visa. Admir, once he got the letter, realized that it was a forgery and demanded his money back.
Mirzeta, who was observed by the policemen while daily, at the same time, picking up and leaving bundles of passports at the German embassy, ignored his complaints. Admir then reported her to the Police, and the policeman unexpectedly dutifully informed his bosses who approved the arrest. However, soon he started getting warnings to "get off" the case. After he ignored several threats, he was punished. Two months after the arrest, he was fired, under the excuse of "not being needed any more". German embassy also promptly reacted. Soon a significant portion of the local staff was fired and clerks now very carefully examine every visa request.