Let us talk about Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina was heavily affected by the collapse of Yugoslavia, experiencing the 1992-1995 conflict which led to great loss of life and restructuring of the country. Today the return of a number of those who had fled at the time and the increase in immigration of people from the Middle East and African Region, make immigration one of the challenges the country has to face along with systemic, economic and political issues.

frivillig med ungdommer som får undervisning i bakgrunnen

Bosnia and Herzegovina (from now on BiH) is a federal parliamentary republic in the Western Balkans, with a capital in Sarajevo. Being part of Yugoslavia until 1992, BiH was heavily affected by the collapse of Yugoslavia, experiencing the 1992-1995 conflict which led to great loss of life and restructuring of the country. The conflict also led about half of the Bosnian population to leave their country. Today the return of a number of those who had fled and the increase in immigration of people from the Middle East and African Region make immigration one of the challenges the country has to face along with systemic, economic and political issues.

Being at the migratory junction between Eastern and Western Europe, since 2015, BiH has experienced a pronounced increase in the migratory flow. BiH is a transit country for those who try to reach the nations of Europe fleeing wars and persecution, primarily through neighbouring Croatia. This flow increased further in 2016, following the closure of the Greek and the Republic of North Macedonia borders and the Balkan route with the Agreement between European Union and Turkey. In a similar context on the border between BiH and Croatia, thousands of refugees find themselves in temporary camps in precarious conditions. According to the records provided by the Ministry of Security in BiH for the IOM situation report, in 2021, there were 15.740 new arrivals, while since the beginning of 2022 and until now, there were 23.034 new arrivals. BiH is considered a transit area as the populations crossing it intends to move further into Europe and not stay in the country. The average length of stay is 10 days, depending on the period and the situation of the people.

Four refugee camps operate in BiH under IOM camp management and protection supervision. The camps are separated among the ones hosting families, vulnerable persons and unaccompanied minors and the ones hosting single men. Many NGOs and agencies work on Protection, Health, Mental Health, and Educational activities. Even though there is a provision for the minimum shelter capacity to be secured for all the camps, greater attention is given to the camps where vulnerable people and families are staying. Settlement-wise, the camps where the families are hosted are comprised of 6-person fitted containers which include six beds and one heater, commonly used WASH areas, and a canteen where food meals are provided three times per day. In addition, social spaces are also run by some actors, such as A Drop in the Ocean, for recreational and educational activities. At the same time, even though the duration of stay is relatively small, some children attend public school in town. On the other hand, the camps for single men are more crowded. The living conditions are more difficult as there are unfilled need gaps, many hygiene issues, insufficient clothes distribution, and other needs coming up due to different prioritization among the different groups. 

 Most of the people who arrive in BiH had experienced a journey during which they pass through different countries on foot or by other precarious means that put their lives in immediate danger. There are cases of people crossing the borders of 14 different countries until they reach their final destination. The cost of fleeing one’s country of origin, which puts one’s life at risk, either because of conflicts or difficult economic conditions, is immense. It is not only the money a person needs to pay to escape significant difficulties. It is also the person’s risk during the movement, both for their physical integrity and psychological state. The majority of the people arriving in the country are in need of psychological support and basic needs (such as clothes) to be covered. In addition, they do not want to stay in it. Knowing the difficulties, the local population is already facing, in terms of lack of jobs, they do not want to aggravate the existing situation. These people do not want to stay in limbo without being able to work and build their lives while simultaneously feeling that they are burdening the local population. Being in a waiting area without knowing if today’s basic needs are secured while at the same time cannot plan or dream for their future is a state which affects the already broken mentality and psychological disposition. The organizations and teams working in the field aim to reduce the great difficulties such as safety against the cold, helping to reduce mental health issues and creating a safe living space.

A Drop in the Ocean is trying to assist people living under the above-mentioned conditions. The organization operates in Ušivac camp, outside Sarajevo, where there are from 200 to 600 people depending on the season. Ušivac is one of two refugee camps in Sarajevo Canton. The other camp is Blazuj camp, for single men. The A Drop in the Ocean field team has operated in the country since December 2020, assisting with distribution and organizing activities. Great work is provided by the field workers, as they always try to identify the current needs and provide appropriate solutions. Particular notice should be given to the most recent alerted reaction of the team as after identifying a considerable number of newly arriving families being without winter coats or closed shoes (people were only wearing crocks, sandals, and flip flops), the team recorded this trend and responded almost immediately to this specific need, as winter already started in BiH, with the morning temperatures already reaching negative numbers. The field team proceeded with distributions to help people with winter coats, shoes, socks, underwear & hygiene items in the family camp of TRC Ušivak. These people seek refuge or help to conquer the difficulties and fear of persecution, war, hunger or whatever else puts their lives in direct danger. A Drop in the Ocean team in BiH is working hard to support the people, provide for them, and believe that better days will follow.


References

Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/bosnia-and-herzegovina/

World Bank: https://data.worldbank.org/country/bosnia-and-herzegovina

Caritas Bosnia:  http://www.caritas.ba/

Centro Studi e Ricerche IDOS (IDOS Study and Research Centre): https://www.dossierimmigrazione.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/No-mans-land_febbraio_ 2019.pdf

Council of the European Union:

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/it/policies/enlargement/bosnia-herzegovina/

Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina http://www.vijeceministara.gov.ba/ministarstva/

European Migration Law:

http://www.europeanmigrationlaw.eu/en/immigration/402-bosnia-and-herzegovina.html

Federal Ministry for Displaced People and Refugees: https://fmroi.gov.ba/

Ministry of Security: Migration Profile of Bosnia and Herzegovina: http://msb.gov.ba/PDF/010720191.pdf

Human Rights Watch:

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/bosnia-and-herzegovina

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre:

https://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/bosnia-and-herzegovina

International Organization for Migration:

https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/ct_needsassessment_western_balkans_bih.pdf  & 01_IOM BiH External Sitrep_31 OCT-13 NOV.pdf

Migration Portal Data:

https://migrationdataportal.org/?i=stock_abs_&t=2019&cm49=70

OHCHR:

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BAIndex.aspx

UNDP Bosna i Hercegovina

https://www.ba.undp.org/content/bosnia_and_herzegovina/bs/home.html

UNHCR:

https://www.unhcr.org/bosnia-and-herzegovina.html