The number of refugees and migrants arrivals to Bosnia and Herzegovina during 2018 significantly increased, with over 24 067 arrivals recorded in 2018 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 5 000 people are present in Bosnia and Herzegovina as of mid-January 2019 but the number fluctuates.
At the beginning of 2018, local communities and international organisations provided basic assistance such as food, shelter, and basic healthcare. 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 has been difficult. The humanitarian needs persist. Unaccompanied and separated children are particularly vulnerable.
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 Commission has allocated €2 million in humanitarian aid in 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 Una-Sana Canton region in the north west of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the needs are most acute. Short-term assistance is complemented by a mid-term response amounting to €7.2 million.
The mid-term assistance currently covers the provision of food, emergency shelter, water and sanitation, warm clothing, education and strengthening the country’s migration management capacities. The humanitarian funds continue to provide health assistance and protection services. Additional accommodation facilities were recently opened both in the Bihac region and near Sarajevo increasing the total accommodation capacity to more than 4 600 places. Refugees and migrants, living in sub-standard conditions were relocated to new winterized facilities in Velika Kladusa and in Bihac. Vouchers for hostels and items such as jackets, shoes and blankets were provided to the most vulnerable.
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.