Analysis: BiH as a Migrant Route from 2015-2019

May 24, 2019 4:00 PM

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) had received a small number of migrants between 2015 and 2017; however, in 2018, the country experienced a significant increase in the numbers of new arrivals.
Most of the migrants came from Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, followed by Libya, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Algeria and Morocco.

They arrived in BiH via two different routes: one via Turkey, Greece, Albania and Montenegro; and the other one via Turkey, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia or Bulgaria, and Serbia. The entry points to BiH were in the areas of Trebinje, Foča and Višegrad in the Republic of Srpska (RS) and Goražde in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH). The majority of these people moved towards Sarajevo and Una-Sana canton, trying to enter the EU through Croatia.

In the second half of 2018, the number of migrants in the country continued to rise rapidly, reaching between 70 and 100 entries per day. After being registered, almost all migrants declared an intention to seek asylum, after which they were free to stay legally in the country for 14 days. From January 2018 to 28 November 2018, the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs of the Ministry of Security recorded over 23,000 arrivals, out of which 21,000 expressed intention to seek asylum, while only 5 per cent or 1,050 asylum claims were recorded. This means that most of the migrants did not intend to stay in the country but planned to move further to the EU countries. Given their free movement in the country, it is not known how many of them finally left the country and after how long of a period of stay.

Out of the total number of migrants entering the country until 28 November 2018 approximately 90 per cent were men, according to the records of Red Cross in the field.

According to the estimations, in the period from 28 June 2018 to 28 November 2018 there were more than 5,000 migrants staying in the country at a given time, out of which approx. 4,000 were concentrated in Una-Sana Canton, close to the Croatian border, where they tried to enter Croatia in smaller groups.

Given the nature of the situation it was not possible to give the precise numbers of migrants in the area. Part of the migrants were located in the improvised centres in the canton, but many more were sleeping on streets, in private accommodation, or in parks. The biggest number of migrants, some 800, were accommodated in Bihać, in the improvised accommodation in Borići.

Following a long negotiation process between the UNHCR, IOM and the governmental authorities a hotel, called Hotel Sedra, was opened to accommodate families and vulnerable groups. Hotel Sedra is located between Cazin and Bihać and was out of use for a long period of time, therefore it needed to be refurbished, for which IOM was in charge. The renovation was done a room by room and as soon as one was completed a family was moved in. In the reporting period there were some 400 people accommodated in the hotel. A third group of migrants, approx. 300 people, stayed in Velika Kladusa, in makeshift tents with no infrastructure and with only four showers and four toilets. Accommodation there was below all standards.

The migratory route within Bosnia and Herzegovina shifted during the implementation period of the EPoA. While at the beginning of the increased influx to BiH migrants entering the country both from the south (Montenegro) and east (Serbia) primarily went to Sarajevo and continued their journey to Una-Sana Canton, later on more and more migrants were going directly to Una-Sana canton moving the route more to the north. Most of the migrants were entering the country from Serbia.
One of the three locations of the RCSBiH response as planned under the EPoA was a centre in Usivak near Sarajevo, which was planned to be established and opened in July 2018. However, this only happened in October 2018.

Although winter was approaching, no adequate locations were designated by the authorities in Una-Sana Canton, or at other locations in the country, where larger number of people could have been accommodated. Therefore, mentioned shelters in Bihac, where most of the refugees and migrants were staying, and the ones in Velika Kladusa were far from being suitable for winter conditions, and that required immediate action by the governmental authorities, Relief Web reports.

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