The second event “Celebrating cohesion” was organised in the hall of the Emporium Hotel, where the results of the project “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Enhancing Social Cohesion in Communities Hosting People on the Move” funded by the European Union and implemented by IOM BiH and UNHCR in BiH are presented.
The implemented activities in the communities of Sarajevo Canton and Una-Sana Canton from the start of project implementation until the end of 2022, for which the European Union allocated 2 million euros, were presented. Through various activities, support was provided to the communities where migrants, asylum seekers and refugees live, from reducing risks to public health and general safety, to supporting the media in objective reporting on local migration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to infrastructure projects during which IOM and UNHCR achieved cooperation with many partners.
„IOM is proud to be the link between the EU and local communities, as well as supporting dialogues between citizens and authorities, and working to bring the community closer to migrants, which are prerequisites for achieving social cohesion. We have witnessed that the connections of local residents and migrants have turned into friendships, and that project activities have improved the living conditions of citizens and people on the move in the communities where they live“, Blanche Picarello, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in BiH, pointed out.
In local communities, the focus was to the implementation of infrastructure initiatives, which are jointly identified with citizens and institutions. These are projects such as the reconstruction of public lighting, roads, sports grounds and public service facilities.
By supporting civil society organizations through the procurement of equipment and materials for work, and their activities in which people on the move participate, such as ecological activities, artistic, culinary and educational workshops and sports activities, they resulted in connecting the local population and migrants.
„The European Union is our strong partner in providing support to refugees and asylum seekers. Through this project, UNHCR, in cooperation with partners with the support of the European Union, strengthened local authorities in providing effective protection to asylum seekers and refugees, including psycho-social assistance, educational activities and infrastructure projects in communities where people on the move reside“, said Lucie Gagné, UNHCR Representative in BiH.
Karel Lizerot, Head of Section for justice and home affairs, migration and public administration reform at the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia Karel Lizerot pointed out that the European Union has so far provided significant financial support and expertise for better coordination of migration and asylum in BiH, and it will continue to help the authorities in this regard. “We continue to cooperate with all our partners in order to jointly find the best solutions for everyone. I especially want to thank the citizens and authorities of Bihać and the Una-Sana Canton for providing support to refugees and migrants when it was most needed,” Lizerot said.
Mustafa Ružnić, Prime Minister of the Una-Sana Canton, expressed satisfaction with the results and cooperation within the project: „Together, we managed to establish a model of education for children on the move, and I will be happy if we continue to work on it, to make it a model of good practice. We have also created good health care models and we must improve them as well as integration projects. Our greatest obligation is to contribute to the activities of combating organized smuggling and human trafficking. The answer to this must be joint and requires international cooperation, professional and strong border surveillance and cooperation with civil society. We have shown that we can cooperate and I believe that we can face the problems that still require our joint action and that is the true value of our connection“, he said.
Elmedin Mehadžić, head of the Department for Local and Religious Communities of the City of Bihać, in his address to the audience, emphasized the importance of the cooperation of all actors in the process of social cohesion:
„The City of Bihać, as a local community where people on the move have been living for several years, has demonstrated how people in need should be treated when found in trouble and on thier way thoward better life. This project had been of significant importance for our local community, and city of Bihać has been recognized as a partner and local community that has showed not only Una- Sana Canton, but also a country in the best way possible. – stated Mehadžić.
Numerous media contents that talk about the phenomenon of migration and the challenges of people on the move were created through the support of the project to the media in order to achieve objective reporting on migration flows in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this way, the public is familiar with the numerous challenges of people in the movement, their life experiences and destinies.
The project continuously strives to establish a constructive dialogue between citizens, BiH authorities at all levels and communities of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and to provide support to local communities in BiH that face the challenges of mixed migration flows. The main goal of the program is to contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion in communities where people on the move live and respond to urgent migration situations for the benefit of people on the move and the citizens of BiH.