ICMPD / Spindelegger: Offener Antwortbrief an Abgeordnete zum Nationalrat Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic
Dear Dr.in Ernst-Dziedzic,
I received your letter, dated 30 May 2023, relating to the unfounded accusations leveled against the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). As the Director General of ICMPD, I appreciate your concerns and will take this opportunity to address them directly.
I want to acknowledge the importance of your role as a Member of Parliament and as the Spokesperson of the Greens for Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Migration, and LGBTIQ. Your commitment to promoting human rights, transparency, and fruitful cooperation with civil society is highly valued, and I assure you that ICMPD shares these objectives.
ICMPD was created 30 years ago in Vienna, following the World Conference on Human Rights held in this city. Vienna’s status as a prominent European hub for international organisations, multilateralism, cooperation, rule of law, and human rights makes it an ideal location for ICMPD’s work. Throughout our history, we have dedicated our efforts to creating better migration frameworks and conditions that benefit sending and hosting countries, societies, and ultimately migrants themselves. Our work in all areas of migration governance builds upon an inclusive and participatory whole-of-society approach, particularly engaging with various civil society actors.
It is regrettable that recent events have led to a perception that ICMPD’s actions may be contrary to these principles. Let me assure you that ICMPD has always adhered to the highest legal and ethical standards, and we have always been committed to actively promoting the rule of law and a rights-based approach to migration governance. Our track record demonstrates this commitment. Beyond those fundamental principles, ICMPD works in all areas of migration governance with an emphasis on areas such as integration and participation of migrants in host societies, diaspora engagement, labor migration, climate-induced migration, and migration and development as well as sensitive matters of border management, return, and reintegration which require particular regard to national and international legal standards.
To illustrate this, I would like to highlight that ICMPD developed the concept of ‘Integrated Border Management’ that specifically addresses the firm inclusion of human rights in all aspects of border management. Additionally, ICMPD has spearheaded the development of EU guidelines and training for fundamental rights monitoring in the context of forced return.
In line with our mission and principles, ICMPD recognises and actively supports the vital engagement of civil society actors in migration policy-making and cooperation. We recognise the essential role civil society plays in ensuring accountability, transparency, and inclusivity in migration-related processes. In this pursuit, we actively seek and value the perspective and expertise of civil society organisations to inform our work and promote better migration governance. We remain steadfast in our dedication to upholding these principles and working collaboratively with all stakeholders.
While the role and responsibility of ICMPD in the project of the Extension of the Multi-Purpose Reception Centre at Lipa in line with European and International Standards has been transparently explained and clarified several times, I am glad to summarise our involvement again. Let me reiterate that ICMPD’s involvement was requested by the Ministry for Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina and exclusively funded by the European Union (EU) as part of a 40 million Euro, multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the reception conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Cf. Annex to the Commission Implementing Decision on the financing of the individual measure to strengthen the response capacity to manage migration flows in favour of the Western Balkans for 2022). The Lipa project was implemented under the supervision of a Steering Group composed by the Ministry of Security, the Service for Foreigners and the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Questions related to building permits have been discussed and clarified in the proceedings of the Steering Group. ICMPD’s sole task in this project was the building of confined area with a capacity for up to 12 people. The establishment of the required legal framework for this area has from the outset been under the responsibility of the responsible national authorities. Needless to add, this project like all other ICMPD projects is implemented adhering to the strictest regulatory framework and is subject to external auditing.
Throughout the 30 years of ICMPD’s work, we have always appreciated critical review of our initiatives and projects. Recently, however, ICMPD was made the object of a number of outright false accusations and allegations of human rights violations, of being complicit to activities in relation to illegal pushbacks, and of making profits from the suffering of migrants. Despite our efforts to provide the necessary factual information and clarify misconceptions, the unfounded accusations continued. In this context, I recognise also your early accusations of human rights violations leveled towards ICMPD’s work in Lipa. As a measure of last resort and assuming my responsibility, I took the decision to pursue legal action for libel. The lawsuit is purely aimed at preserving the organisation’s integrity in the court of law. This decision was not taken lightly, and was motivated by the need to address concerns related to compliance and adherence to legal and ethical standards within our work. As long as these false allegations have not been retracted, I see no other way to protect the integrity of the organisation than in the court of law. However, ICMPD remains ready to engage in open exchange to further an evidence-based and factual discourse.
In closing, I want to reiterate ICMPD’s unwavering commitment to upholding human rights, promoting an open dialogue, and ensuring the highest standards of integrity in our work. In this light, I appreciate your suggestion to have an in-person exchange for which I have been ready and available since the start of this discussion in April. I reiterate my standing invitation to engage in a constructive dialogue, to address your concerns directly.
I look forward to meeting with you and to present the work of ICMPD in further detail.
Dr. Michael Spindelegger