In light of the dire situation facing migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mission) calls upon authorities at all levels of government to develop and agree upon sustainable and human rights-compliant solutions to the growing humanitarian crisis.
Of particular concern is the situation in Una Sana Canton, where many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers live in inhumane and dangerous conditions, particularly in and around Velika Kladusa and Bihac. Though recent actions taken to accommodate some individuals in the former Lipa Temporary Reception Centre provide some encouragement, further human suffering will only be prevented through urgent and co-ordinated action by state, entity and cantonal level authorities. Harsh winter conditions further exacerbate these issues, with many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers forced to sleep rough, with little shelter, food, or other necessities.
Reports of violent pushbacks and other human rights violations at the BiH border further concern the Mission. According to the Border Violence Monitoring Network, many of the pushbacks in 2020 involved some form of violence, ranging from verbal abuse and physical assault, to theft, extortion, and rape, which is utterly unacceptable.
On Monday 25 January, in order to better understand these allegations, Kathleen Kavalec, Head of the BiH Mission, met with representatives of non-governmental organizations Amnesty International, Danish Refugee Council, Are You Syrious, Save the Children, No Name Kitchen and Puz. The Mission reminds all authorities that they must uphold their obligations under international human rights treaties and domestic law and recalls the importance of democratic oversight in this respect. In addition, a credible and effective monitoring mechanism that holds authorities accountable must be established, including relevant international and national human rights institutions and members of civil society.
The OSCE Mission to BiH remains available to assist authorities in engaging in productive political dialogue in order to improve this situation, and stands ready to support the much-needed improvement of co-ordination efforts between cantonal, entity, and state level authorities.