'I am a Dutch Bosnian, born and raised in Kozarac, municipality of Prijedor.
It is a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which then was still part of the former Yugoslavia. I had just finished Grammar School when the war broke out in 1991. As a conscripted soldier, I had to go to the front in Croatia. Because I did not agree with this war, I deserted after 40 days.
The following year, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence and war broke out there. After the fall of Kozarac, my father and I ended up in the concentration camp Omarska. That was a horrible place. I barely survived that time, at the end I was completely starved and exhausted. I have been through a lot, I saw a lot of people I knew die. My best friend Dado was murdered, my grandma who stayed behind was never found. If I go back to those years, that is always the first thing I think of. The suffering that I personally was subjected to I have now forgotten. But the fact that so many people around me were murdered, often horrifically, for nothing, I still find very hard to accept.
Ultimately, after my release from another camp in early 1993, I could come to the Netherlands. There I was reunited with my parents, brothers and sister. I learned to express myself Dutch at first by using gestures. I started in 1993 as an interpreter/assistant at the Employment Office on a project to help Bosnians find jobs. After this project was completed, I ended up, purely by chance, at the IND [Immigration and Naturalisation Service]. When I was at Randstad for an intake interview, a fax came in. The IND was looking for 15 employees to give asylum seekers at Schiphol a hearing. The staff member at the employment agency asked if that wasn't something for me. I applied for the job and was able to start immediately.
We are now 20 years on and I have been able to get my life completely on track. I still work for the IND. That organisation has meant a lot to me, it supported me in pursuing my law studies and has provided an opportunity to do continually interesting and meaningful work. As a coordinating advisor, I am the contact person for matters relating to access and border control. I am, for example, involved in Schengen evaluations on behalf of Netherlands. That means that I, together with European colleagues, do on-site investigations to see the countries connected through Schengen are meeting their obligations regarding border surveillance on land, at sea or in the air.
I still regularly go to Bosnia-Herzegovina. My parents have rebuilt our house in Kozarac. In November I returned because of the discovery of a new mass grave in Tomašica, near Prijedor. I keep hoping that one day my grandmother will be found.'