December 2018: An Emergency Appeal for CHF 3,311,347 million was published for twelve months to deliver assistance and support to up to 7,600 migrants while supporting and strengthening the efforts of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In early September 2019, the RCSBiH formally requested the IFRC for Emergency Appeal extension for additional 12 months, in line with changing situation on the ground, increased arrivals and growing needs for RC assistance.
In October 2019 a joint IFRC and RCSBiH Multi-Sectoral and Risk assessment was carried out in and the results of the assessment served for prioritization of needs and decision related to the Emergency Appeal.
November 2019: The revised Emergency Appeal was launched which reflected the needs of an increasing number of people to be assisted, an increased budget to CHF 3.8 million to assist a total of 35,000 people on move in the ongoing migration crisis and 1,500 households from among local vulnerable population affected by the crisis. The Emergency Appeal was extended until 8 December 2020.
February 2020: Based on the continuous needs' assessments conducted since the beginning of the operation and as a result of the changing context and worsening conditions on the ground, it has been decided to extend the Emergency Appeal until the end of December 2021. Minor changes were introduced to the operational budget. However, the total funding requirements of the Emergency Appeal remained unchanged.
December 2021: Emergency Appeal extension approved for three months, until 31 March 2022 • March 2022: Final evaluation conducted to assess the relevance, efficiency and coherence of the Appeal, with the overall objective being to inform IFRC’s ongoing and future programming, resource mobilization, recommendations and lessons learned from the current and the future operations. The Final Evaluation report will be published soon via www.ifrc.org.
A. SITUATION ANALYSIS
Description of the crisis
Countries throughout the Balkans experienced a significant influx of migrants in 2015 and 2017. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), however, not being situated on the main migratory route, was only marginally affected at that time. Since the beginning of 2018, the country has seen a significant increase in the numbers of arrivals (in total 24,067 arrivals registered in 2018), with migrants arriving through Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Entry points to BiH were in the areas of Trebinje, Foča, Višegrad, Zvornik and Bijeljina in the Republika Srpska (RS) and Goražde in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH). The majority of people arriving were heading through Tuzla and Sarajevo to Una- Sana Canton (USC) and seeking to enter the European Union (EU) through Croatia. The total arrivals since 2018 were at almost 86,100 as of March 2022.
Most people arriving declared to be from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Egypt, among others. The capacities for accommodation were limited in six official Temporary Reception Centers (TRCs) with limited capacities, therefore a majority of migrants were staying outside of formal accommodation, squatting in abandoned buildings, forests and in makeshift camps. An Emergency Appeal was launched in December 2018 focusing on providing assistance to the migrants accommodated in the TRCs and migrants on the move, as well as the host communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering the increased number of arrivals (both registered and unregistered) in the country during 2019-2020, strict border controls between Croatia and BiH that slowed down the movement along the route, worsening conditions on the ground during winter periods and also due to limited access to sufficient food, water, health services, sanitation facilities and appropriate shelter the need for assistance to be continuously provided by the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RCSBiH) Mobile Teams was ever higher.
In response to increasing tensions and steady increase in the arrival of migrants, following the decision by the BiH Council of Ministers, the City Council of Bihac and the Mayor held an extraordinary session on 4 April 2019, demanding the closure/relocation of Bira TRC to deal with the evolving crisis. One of the conclusions of the City Council was that Bira facility could no longer be used as a TRC for migrants, it should be closed and migrants should be relocated out of the urban area of Bihać. On 10 April 2019 the Government of USC, at an extraordinary session, endorsed all recommendations of Bihac City Council and the Mayor of Bihac. Following the session, the Government requested BiH Council of Ministers and IOM to relocate migrants staying in the residential areas, namely Bira TRC in Bihać and Miral TRC in Velika Kladuša (both in USC) and to find another location outside of populated/residential areas within 30 days. In May, authorities in Una-Sana Canton have relocated migrants and refugees residing in open spaces and private accommodation in Bihac to a new location identified by the Bihac City Council as “Vučjak”. The UN, and other actors expressed serious concern with regard to this decision and called upon the authorities to immediately cease this relocation until a more suitable place is available. For a detailed description of event of this period, and Red Cross Red Crescent assistance provided in Vucjak, please see operation updates no.2, no.3, and no.4. ‘Vucjak’ was eventually closed on 11 December 2019, with most of the people moved by buses to Sarajevo, TRC Ušivak on temporary basis and TRC Blažuj. Despite the visit by the EU Parliamentarians at the end of January 2020, the authorities of USC were still demanding the closure of Bira and Miral TRCs to deal with the evolving migrant crisis.
The situation has further deteriorated due to the COVID-19 pandemic with restrictive measures that exacerbated the needs and vulnerabilities of migrants, and have had an impact on the socially vulnerable local population. Ensuring an effective response operation during the COVID-19 pandemic has required significant readjustments, both in terms of programming and duty of care to the people targeted, volunteers and staff. Despite the overall restrictions and challenges ranging from procurement of adequate personal protective equipment and ensuring social distancing in crowded settings, RCSBiH managed to deliver the planned services to the migrants following all necessary precautions.
On 25 March 2020, an order was issued ceasing movement in or out of TRCs for migrants. At this time, local authorities in USC were in final phase of setting up new camp location ‘Lipa’ (in vicinity of a village between Bihać and Bosanski Petrovac) where all migrants who were outside other existing camps would reside in order to have transmission of disease contained as much as possible among migrant’s population on the move. In the new camp location ‘Lipa’ the first residents were received on 21 April 2020. Due to the situation with COVID-19 pandemic, there were special zones planned for isolation and for accommodation. Lipa camp (in Una-Sana Canton-USC) was put on fire after the withdrawal of the IOM from the camp on 23 December 2020. The situation became tense and the protests by the local population were taking place to prevent the reopening of the TRC Bira in USC. The BiH Armed Forces provided tents in Lipa camp for the accommodation of migrants. The RCSBiH has mobilized all efforts immediately after the fire to save lives and meet the basic needs of migrants in the camp with a special focus on the provision of food, hot drinks, First Aid services, winter clothes, basic hygiene supplies. On 8 January 2021, RCSBiH took over the tents from the Armed Forces BiH at the Lipa site. At the end of 2021The BiH Ministry of Security (MoS) has been gradually taking over the coordination role and responsibility for managing the migration crisis, the organizations and agencies that work with population movement crisis within Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to be pre-approved and coordinated through new systems that are being developed by the MoS. For a detailed description of events in Lipa, later developed into Lipa Temporary Reception Centre (opened 19 November 2021), please see operation updates no. 5-9. A summary of assistance by RCSBiH and partners (including in Lipa) is described below.
Migration flows in Bosnia-Herzegovina continued in 2020 (only in 2020, there have been over 26,000 arrivals to BiH) and 2021, though the number of new arrivals has declined compared to previous years. The BiH Ministry of Security has been gradually taking over the responsibility for the overall situation related to migration crisis management in the country. The political situation in BiH and neighboring countries has changed and resulted in a decrease of new arrivals due to tighter controls on the Croatian border resulting in migrants losing interest to use the BiH route. The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak also caused border closures and movement restrictions.