The number of refugee and migrant arrivals to Bosnia and Herzegovina during 2018 has significantly increased, with over 22 400 arrivals recorded since the beginning of the year compared to 755 arrivals in 2017.
Many are trying to move through Bosnia and Herzegovina to enter the EU by crossing into Croatia; however, many also remain in the country. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that around 6 000 people are present in Bosnia and Herzegovina as of mid-November 2018.
In past months, basic assistance such as food, shelter, and basic healthcare were provided by local communities and international organisations. However, their capacities were overstretched. In May 2018, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially requested assistance from the EU.
The two government reception sites offer limited reception capacity and are located far from the migratory route. Due to limited capacities to accommodate vulnerable people and families, the provision of adequate accommodation and services is difficult. Unaccompanied and separated children are particularly vulnerable in this sense. Many refugees and migrants camp in open air or take shelter in disused buildings in the areas bordering Croatia, where there are few or no sanitary facilities. The onset of the winter makes providing adequate shelter even more critical.
Since the beginning of the influx of refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU has been working closely with UN agencies, other humanitarian organisations and the Bosnian authorities to meet the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable refugees and migrants.
The European Union has allocated € 2 million in humanitarian aid in the beginning of June 2018 to provide emergency assistance, which is carried out by international humanitarian organisations. This emergency response addresses the needs of the refugees and migrants present in particular in the Bihac and Una-Sana Canton region in the north west of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the needs are most acute.
The assistance covers the provision of food, water, emergency shelter, sanitation, health assistance, warm clothing, and protection services. The two main implementing partners are UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that work with a number of organisations such as the Danish Refugee Council, Vaša Prava and BiH Women’s Initiative. Short-term assistance is being complemented by a mid-term response amounting to € 7.2 million; it aims to provide adequate accommodation, basic services and education, and strengthen the country’s migration management capacities.
Further accommodation facilities have been opened recently both in the Bihac region and near Sarajevo so that refugees and migrants who previously lived in inadequate conditions or informal sites can be provided with basic assistance and shelter from harsh winter conditions.
The EU regularly consults the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its medium and long-term strategy to address the needs of the refugees and migrants.