The European Commission has announced today an additional €3.5 million in humanitarian aid to help vulnerable refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina facing a humanitarian disaster. More than 1,700 refugees and migrants remain without appropriate shelter and support in Una Sana canton. After the closure of the reception centre in Lipa, which was not winter-proof and which also suffered a fire, 900 people are currently on the former campsite. In addition, a further 800 refugees and migrants are staying outdoors in harsh winter conditions, including children.
High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, said: “The situation in Una Sana canton is unacceptable. Winter-proof accommodations are a pre-requisite for humane living conditions, which need to be ensured at all times. Local authorities need to make existing facilities available and provide a temporary solution until Lipa camp is rebuilt into a permanent facility. The EU’s humanitarian assistance will provide the people in distress with access to basic items as an immediate alleviation to their current plight. However, long-term solutions are urgently needed. We urge the authorities not to leave people out in the cold, without access to sanitary facilities in the midst of a global pandemic.”
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “Hundreds of people, including children, are sleeping outside in freezing temperatures in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This humanitarian disaster could be avoided, if the authorities created sufficient winterized shelter capacity in the country, including by making use of existing facilities available. The EU will provide additional emergency assistance including to those sleeping outside by distributing food, blankets, warm clothes and continue to support unaccompanied minors. However, humanitarian assistance would not be required in Bosnia and Herzegovina, if the country implemented appropriate migration management, as requested by the EU for many years.”
The humanitarian funding announced today will provide refugees and migrants with warm clothing, blankets, food, as well as healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support. It will also contribute to efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This funding comes on top of €4.5 million allocated in April 2020, bringing EU humanitarian assistance for refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina to €13.8 million since 2018.
While over 5,400 refugees and migrants are accommodated in EU-funded temporary reception centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the current shelter capacity made available in the country is not sufficient.
Despite continued EU engagement with the authorities, they have not agreed to open additional reception facilities and proceeded with the closure of the existing ones, such as the Temporary Reception Centre Bira in Bihać. People continue to sleep in abandoned buildings or makeshift tents, without access to safe and dignified shelter, water and sanitation, electricity and heating, and they only have limited access to food and safe drinking water. Without access to basic services, vulnerable refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina are exposed to serious protection and health risks, aggravated by the coronavirus. The much needed lifesaving help does not replace longer-term solutions to the current situation.
The EU provides technical and financial support to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the overall migration management, including in relation to the asylum system and reception facilities, as well as strengthening border management. Since early 2018, the EU has provided more than €88 million either directly to Bosnia and Herzegovina or through implementing partner organisations to address the immediate needs of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants and to help Bosnia and Herzegovina strengthen its migration management capacities.