A UN human rights expert has praised the generosity extended to migrants by citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina – themselves victims of a brutal war 24 years ago – but said a fragmented political structure was undermining the rights of migrants in the country.
“It is remarkable that ordinary citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina generously have distributed food, clothes and goods to migrants. Having experienced an atrocious war, people relate themselves to the plight of migrants,” said Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
At the end of his official visit to BiH, González Morales urged authorities at all levels in BiH to work together towards a State-led response to the migration situation.
“Facing an increased influx of migrants like many other countries in the region, there are positive aspects in BiH, which are aligned with international human rights standards,” he said. “These include the use of detention as a measure of last resort, the non-criminalization of irregular entries, and the fact that migrants are generally accommodated in open reception centres.”
However, González Morales said, the fragmented political structure, the lack of unity of vision as well as the lack of willingness of authorities at different levels for genuine cooperation have undermined the enjoyment of human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers.
“The fact that all reception centres are located in the Federation and that the majority of migrants are accommodated in Una-Sana Canton are clear illustrations of migration being highly politicized with divided agendas in the country,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“The State of BiH has to take the lead in developing a comprehensive strategy, which provides durable solution for migrants, especially asylum seekers in the country.”
He cited serious concerns about the dire living conditions at the Vucjak camp, a former landfill site that lies close to an area riddled with landmines.
“On the day of my visit, approximately 800 single man including around 20 minors were placed at the site. The condition of the site is inhuman and absolutely inappropriate for accommodating human beings.
“Winter is coming, to avoid loss of life, immediate action is needed to cease forcible escorting to the site and provide alternative location of accommodation for single male migrants who live outside reception centres, especially those who are currently at the Vucjak site.”