IOM’s Migration Response


IOM’s Migration Response (as of June 2020)


In the context of the increased the number of irregular migrants transiting through the country since the end of 2017, and of persons seeking asylum, IOM seeks to support the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to effectively manage a functioning reception system that is in line with international standards and that provides living conditions at an acceptable standard, where the dignity of those accommodated is maintained and their basic needs met.

In 2019, BiH authorities have registered 29,232 migrant arrivals. The composition of the migration flows is mixed, with top declared countries of origin being Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Syria. While the vast majority is single men, there are also families with children, elderly, unaccompanied migrant children, and those vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.

While the number may seem modest in comparison to the number of migrants passing through the Western Balkan route in 2015 and 2016, IOM estimates that there are between 7,000-8,000 migrants in the country at any given time, mainly concentrated in Una-Sana Canton – in close proximity to the border with EU Member State Croatia – with lesser numbers in transit in Sarajevo and Tuzla Cantons.


In response to the increase in migrants and asylum seekers in BiH since the end of 2017, IOM has scaled up its field presence in Una Sana Canton significantly, first through the deployment of mobile protection and assistance teams, and in 2018, the first UN agency to open a field office in Bihac in Una Sana Canton.  

In 2018, with the support of the European Union (EU), IOM opened four new Temporary Reception Centres in Una Sana Canton, and with the support of the Council of Europe Development Bank, IOM opened one new Temporary Reception Centre in Sarajevo. In late 2019, with support of the EU and in collaboration with the German Federal Civil Protection Agency, IOM also opened an additional site in Blažuj, Sarajevo Canton.

Sedra Temporary Reception Centre in Cazin Municipality for families and vulnerable migrants opened in July 2018

Bira Temporary Reception Centre in the City of Bihac, primarily for single men opened in October 2018

Miral Temporary Reception Centre in Velika Kladusa Municipality primarily for single men opened in October 2018, with IOM supporting the site management from November 2018.

Usivak Temporary Reception Centre in Hadžići Municipality for single men, families and vulnerable migrants opened in October 2018.

Borici Temporary Reception Centre in City of Bihac for families and vulnerable migrants re-opened in December 2018 following complete renovation.

Blažuj Temporary Reception Centre in Sarajevo Canton, started providing provisional accommodation solutions during the winter in 2019, and will continue to scale up its capacity and to improve living conditions as reconstruction works to fully operationalize the site are still ongoing.

Emergency Tent Camp in Una-Sana Canton, officially opened on April 21st 2020 by the local authorities, provides shelter and basic humanitarian needs for up to 1,000 single men, previously sleeping rough in different types of informal accommodation throughout Una-Sana Canton.

The response is led by IOM’s Country Emergency Coordinator, overseeing around 150–200 field staff members directly engaged in the migration response – the vast majority working in the six temporary reception centres established and managed by IOM, on behalf of the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs within the Ministry of Security of BiH.

In these centres, supported by the EU, IOM is providing for the basic needs of migrants, including food, hygiene products, clothes, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, 24/7 IOM centre management staff, and 24/7 cleaning, maintenance and security personnel.

IOM is also supporting the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (the BiH Ministry of Security) in Centre Coordination and Centre Management (CCCM), coordinating all activities and all actors/implementing partners providing services in the centres.

IOM, together with partner agencies, has established structures and mechanisms to promote migrants’ participation in the daily life and operations of the centres, and established migrant/community structures and community representatives/leaders facilitating dialogues between migrant groups, and between migrants and centre management, and for migrants to be able to express concerns and emerging needs.

There are also reporting mechanisms established for migrants to report incidents of violence, exploitation or abuse, and other protection concerns, in their own language and anonymously.

IOM also works closely with UNHCR and UNICEF mainstreaming protection in the migration response, while working to identify and address protection concerns in the centres, with particular attention given to gender-based violence, trafficking in human beings.

Additionally, IOM also provides support to the Border Police and the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs to further strengthen their human and technical capacity to register irregular migrants, and to proactively screen and identify those vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse.



On behalf of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT), IOM and UNHCR co-lead the response in support of the BiH authorities and in particular the BiH Ministry of Security. This support covers both the provision of humanitarian assistance and the strengthening of the overall migration and asylum management in the country.

At the state-level, the Operational Headquarters for Migration Issues chaired by the Minister of Security prepares and proposes measures, decisions and procedures for action for the Council of Ministers and other institutions and agencies and coordinates the response of all state actors involved in both the humanitarian and migration and asylum management response to the current situation. Representatives of the entity-level and the Brčko District of BiH bodies for migration issues are participating in this forum. Una Sana Canton representatives are not members but are invited to participate in this body.

Since 2018, IOM as the principal Agency of the response, participates in this body at the request of the BiH Minister of Security. The body meets in on a bi-weekly basis, however recently, it has met less frequently.

IOM and UNHCR co-chair monthly Refugee and Migrant Response Coordination Meetings: this interagency group is open to all national and international governmental and non-governmental actors in the humanitarian response to the migrant and refugee situation and is the main venue for information exchange and coordination among international and civil society stakeholders.  State level authorities are routinely invited, as are Federation authorities as well as those from Sarajevo Canton and municipality.

IOM - the UN Migration Agency has been present in BiH 1992.  IOM has a longstanding partnership with the Government of BiH supporting the country in key migration management areas, including but not limited to counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, border management, labour migration, and diaspora engagement.