At the end of 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina started seeing an increase number of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving to the country. In 2018, the Ministry of Security (MoS) recorded 24,067 migrant and refugee arrivals, compared to 755 in the whole of 2017. In 2019, 29,124 arrivals were recorded, and the trend continued throughout 2020 with 16,150 migrant arrivals registered in BiH. In 2021, 15,740 migrant arrivals were registered while in 2022 the number was 27,429.
The composition of the migration flows is mixed, with top declared countries of origin being Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Morocco and Syria. While the vast majority is single men, there are also families with children, elderly, unaccompanied migrant children, and other vulnerable categories.
In the context of the increased number of migrants transiting through the country since the end of 2017, IOM seeks to support the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to effectively manage a protection-sensitive reception system that is in line with international standards and that provide living conditions where the dignity of those accommodated is maintained and their basic needs met.
As the lead agency for the Inter-Agency Migration Response in BiH and sector lead on Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), IOM worked closely with the Ministry of Security (MoS) and the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (SFA) in the management of temporary reception centres (TRCs), managing up to seven reception centres, in Sarajevo Canton (SC) and Una-Sana Canton (USC), providing accommodation to more than 8,000 people at a time.
At the moment, there are four remaining reception centres in the country, with 4,592 available beds.
Parallelly IOM cooperates with BiH authorities furthering the plan for a transition to a state-owned migration response. The plan aims to progressively transfer management of TRCs to the SFA and has started in 2021 with direct management of TRC Lipa. To this aim, capacity building and on-the-job trainings were organized with the SFA and other key agencies, to strengthen systems for data collection and ensure protection-sensitive assistance.
On behalf of the United Nations Country Team (UNCT), IOM and UNHCR co-lead the migration 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.
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.
IOM outreach teams in coordination with Red Cross provide assistance to those sleeping outside in informal and rough accommodation, by distributing food and NFI packages, personal protective equipment and information on assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR).
Lipa Temporary Reception Centre
Bira Temporary Reception Centre in the City of Bihac, primarily for single men, opened in October 2018 and was closed by decision of the local authorities in Una-Sana Canton, on 30 September 2020.
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.
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 remaining five temporary reception centres.
Since mid-2018, through the support among others of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), and the German Federal Civil Protection Agency, significant efforts have been directed to support the Government of BiH to expand the country’s capacity to provide accommodation, humanitarian assistance and protection to migrants, asylum seekers.
With EU support, 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 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. IOM is also supporting the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs in Centre Coordination and Centre Management (CCCM), coordinating all activities and all actors/implementing partners providing services in the centres. This also includes working closely with UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA and DRC to mainstream protection in the migration response, while working to identify and address protection concerns in the centres, with particular attention given to gender-based violence, and trafficking in human beings.
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, anonymously in their own language.
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