The number of refugee and migrant arrivals to Bosnia and Herzegovina has significantly increased during 2019, going now beyond 59,000 in total since the beginning of 2018. Prior to the pandemic, many were trying to enter the EU through Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, around 9,000 people are stranded in the country. Due to coronavirus restrictive measures, however, movement on the Western Balkans route has almost stopped.
The EU is concerned about the difficult humanitarian situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and continues advocating towards the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to identify more suitable accommodation facilities and to respect refugees’ and migrants’ fundamental rights.
What are the needs?
The increase in arrivals of refugees and migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina in mid-2018 required international assistance to address the emerging humanitarian situation and provide basic assistance such as emergency shelter, water and sanitation, food, blankets, health and protection assistance.
In the recent months, arrivals have continued to rise, while authorities have been further restricting the movement of refugees and migrants. The existing EU-funded temporary reception centres are overstretched, with some people still sleeping outside. Furthermore, the increased number of unaccompanied and separated children, exposed to significant protection risks, is of particular concern. In addition to the regular assistance given to those accommodated at reception facilities, reaching out to refugees and migrants outside of the centres and providing them with basic support is very important. In the long-term, suitable accommodation facilities are needed.
The coronavirus outbreak is likely to worsen the already difficult humanitarian situation and can have dramatic consequences both inside the overcrowded reception facilities and outside, as migrants and refugees do not have adequate access to water and sanitation. This puts them in a particularly vulnerable situation and they should be granted access to health support.