On 1 December, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Embassy of Norway in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) launched a two-year initiative to address mixed migration flows in the Western Balkans region.
To date, some 1.4 million migrants have transited through the Western Balkans. The situation remains fluid, as mixed migration flows and trends in the region continuously change. Coupled with challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has revealed the need for enhanced data and evidence as well as assistance and solutions for migrants.
“This initiative seeks to ensure that vulnerable migrants in the Western Balkans are better protected and have access to safe and dignified return assistance,” said His Excellency Mr. Olav Reinertsen, Norwegian Ambassador to BiH, following the signing of the agreement.
IOM will expand its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to ensure that the location, needs, and vulnerabilities of migrants in the Western Balkans are recorded and analyzed. The initiative will also focus on enhancing government capacities to register, identify and screen vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers. Together, these efforts aim to strengthen the ability of governments and relevant stakeholders to provide evidence-based protection assistance, including adequate accommodation and reception services.
“IOM is committed to protecting vulnerable migrants in the Western Balkans and promoting appropriate solutions based on sound data and evidence,” emphasized Ms. Laura Lungarotti, IOM BiH Chief of Mission and Sub-regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans.
The initiative will also increase access to information and counseling services to help migrants make informed decisions regarding their journey. This includes information on opportunities for assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR), which IOM has provided to some 2,371 migrants in the region since 2016.
In addition to safe and dignified pathways, AVRR supports sustainable reintegration through tailored assistance, which may include accommodation, education or training, employment or other income-generating activities, health care, psychosocial support, legal advice and other services.
IOM will continue to build on the excellent relationships with relevant authorities in BiH, Albania, Kosovo*, and Montenegro to implement this initiative while strengthening migration governance across the region in line with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). IOM will also work in close coordination with UNHCR and UNICEF as well as other partners providing assistance to vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers.