Analysis: Migrants and Asylumseekers in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Arrivals During March, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) authorities recorded 1,019 migrants and asylumseekers arriving irregularly to the country, including 17 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). The majority declared to be from Afghanistan (41%) and Pakistan (35%). 926 persons (91% of new arrivals) expressed the intention to seek asylum. This brings the total number of arrivals to 71,875 since January 2018. Furthermore, in March, ten asylum claims were registered by the Minister of Security (MoS) Sector for Asylum. A total of 36 asylum claims have been registered in 2021, which is less than half the number registered during the same period in 2020 (78).

Presence in BiH at the end of the month 5,717 asylum-seekers and migrants were accommodated in reception facilities at the end of March, while around 2,000 persons are estimated to be squatting outside of formal accommodation, mostly in Una-Sana Canton (USC).
Among those in reception facilities, 74% are single adult males, 20% are families with children, and about 6% are UASC.

March highlights IOM and representatives of MoS and the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (SFA) met at the new Temporary Reception Centre (TRC) Lipa to discuss future developments. IOM presented the construction plans for the reconstruction of Lipa, in line with minimum humanitarian SPHERE standards. 

Participants were informed of the execution schedule, the tenders, and the budget necessary to complete the work. Furthermore, discussion articulated on the ways in which the Ministry of Security could help and on the timing for the transfer of migrants and asylum-seekers from Provisional Camp (PC) Lipa to the new TRC Lipa.
Furthermore, due to a sudden increase of COVID -19 cases in March, various preventive measures were taken in the TRCs, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Public Health and the (SFA. Therefore, all TRCs in USC (Borići, Sedra, Miral) were put in a 14-day lockdown due to outbreaks of confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

A major screening was conducted in collaboration with local medical institutions and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). Furthermore, all confirmed cases remained in mandatory quarantine in designated spaces within the centres, the situation was kept under control, with IOM and partner agencies closely monitoring the health conditions of migrants and asylum seekers. IOM continued to pay attention to COVID-19 prevention measures, such as increased disinfection and hygiene measures in centres, and as well as mandatory use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

IOM, UNHCR and partner organizations continued providing technical assistance to SFA in Provisional Camp (PC) Lipa on a range of Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) activities. For instance, a training was held on reporting and administration of generators, heaters, fuel, electrical infrastructure, and orders of materials, and other operational challenges, such as the daily distribution of food and need to accommodate people on the move who arrive after the food distribution hours, were also discussed. March was also marked by several high delegation visits to PC Lipa, including a visit of H.E. Ambassador of Switzerland to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Daniel Hunn, and the Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Patricia Danzi. On 24 March, IOM Chief of Mission visited PC Lipa together with Deputy Director of the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (SFA), and Advisor to the Minister of Security (MoS) in BiH, and discussed the current situation, including the ongoing works and improvements of the centre. The following day, the IOM Chief of Mission visited PC Lipa with the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to BiH and European Union Special Representative Banja Luka Office, Stefano Donati.

On 17 March, the IOM’s Chief of Mission visited Canton 10, in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), and Republika Sprska (RS), where she met with the Presidents in charge to discuss and strengthen dialogue on migration governance in the country. In particular, the dialogue focused on the need to establish shared responsibilities in the screening and management of migrants and asylum seekers in BiH, while at the same time supporting individuals and communities in needs, especially the one hosting migrants and asylum seekers, with the aim to contribute to more sustainable and cohesive solutions over the long term.

Lastly, in mid-March, a joint pilot data collection exercise on migrants’ presence was conducted together with the SFA and implemented by IOM staff. The exercise was conducted in four Cantons: Una-Sana Canton, Sarajevo Canton, Tuzla Canton, and Herzegovina-Neretva, within 27 municipalities, for a total of 76 locations to collect information on the number of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees present in the country who have previously not been accommodated or registered in any official TRC. The findings showed that the total number of migrants and asylum seekers identified in the locations covered was 1,927, including 1,754 who stated that they were not accommodated in any official TRC. The majority of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees met outside of the TRCs were nationals of Afghanistan (42%) and Pakistan (29%).

Overall, adult males represented the 84 per cent of the total migrant population identified outside TRCs in BiH. Most were found in the Una-Sana Canton (USC) and Canton Sarajevo (CS), with while a smaller presence in Tuzla Canton (TC) and Herzegovina – Neretva Canton (HNC). Only 276 (18%) of the 1,754 migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees outside TRCs indicated the wish to be accommodated in one of centres. Lastly, most migrants reported that their final intended destination was Italy (38%), followed by France (20%) and Germany (20%). The DTM exercise conducted by IOM in partnership with the SFA will be conducted on a monthly basis, Relief Web writes.

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