Today, authorities in Una Sana Canton have started the relocation of migrants and refugees residing in private accommodation in Bihac to a new location identified by the Bihac City Council as “Vucjak”. The UN expresses serious concern with regard to this decision, as we firmly believe that this location is entirely inadequate for the purpose of accommodating people there. We call upon the authorities to immediately cease this relocation until a more suitable place is available. The UN urges the authorities to allow migrants and refugees already relocated to “Vucjak” to return.
“Vucjak” poses very significant health and safety risks and is currently not equipped to accommodate migrants and refugees in accordance with international standards. The site is located very close to landmine infected areas. There is also a high fire and explosion hazard due to the possible presence of methane gas underground, as the site was a former landfill. Unless these two serious risks are assessed and eliminated by the relevant authorities, the site is unsuitable for human habitation. In addition, there are no sanitary facilities available on the site and no access to running water or electricity. Under these circumstances, locating migrants and refugees there is not acceptable.
The UN is aware of the steadily increasing number of migrants and refugees who are remaining for longer periods of time in Una Sana Canton. Numbers now largely exceed the capacity of the four official migration accommodation centres established in the Canton. The UN and its partners are actively engaged on the ground to support authorities in addressing the complex set of protection, security and humanitarian challenges this situation poses.
The UN understands the concerns of the local population and the Una Sana Canton authorities regarding migrants and refugees residing outside of the four official reception centres in the Canton, especially those squatting in public spaces and empty houses, and the need for additional accommodation space. The UN would like to emphasize, however, that such measures need to be taken with full respect of migrant and refugee rights under international and national law, including humanitarian standards for accommodation sites.
The UN recognizes the past and ongoing efforts of the Una Sana Cantonal authorities to address the challenges posed by the increased number of migrants and refugees transiting through and staying in the Canton. It also recognizes that Una Sana Canton has borne most of the burden of this iteration of the “Balkan Route.” The UN therefore calls upon authorities at all competent levels to take immediate action to aid Una Sana Canton in dealing with the current migrant and refugee situation, including through the establishment of additional migrant and refugee accommodation elsewhere in the country.
Under those standards, the UN will continue to support the country, seek donor support and work together with local authorities to best address the refugee and migrant situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.