Bosnia and Herzegovina

Inter-Agency Operational Update: Bosnia and Herzegovina (1 - 31 August 2018)

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During August, health care was provided in Una-Sana Canton by local health care centres, supported by UNHCR, the Danish Refugee Council, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

As of 31 August, winter appropriate accommodation only existed for approximately 200 of around 4,000 refugees and migrants in Una-Sana Canton.

Reports alleging violent push-backs from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina continue.
International media and EU attention on the issue has increased.

Operational Context

There have been 12,434 detected refugee and migrant arrivals to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 2018 to-date, compared to 307 over the same period in 2017. The number of arrivals has stabilized, reaching close to 2,500 for the fourth consecutive month. A majority arrive overland from Serbia and some from Montenegro in an irregular manner (i.e. at nonofficial border crossings). Estimates of the number in need of humanitarian assistance at various locations throughout BiH remain high, with manageable numbers in Sarajevo and more concerning numbers in Una-Sana Canton (USC), where humanitarian needs are particularly critical. The latter location is linked to attempts to enter Croatia. The UN in BiH continues to express concern over increasing numbers of reports and first-hand accounts regarding refugees and migrants who allege to have experienced violent push-backs by Croatian police and sustained physical injuries as a result. International media attention on this issue also increased.

Limited progress continues to be made vis-à-vis the provision of winter appropriate accommodation in USC. The recently opened transit/reception centre in USC (TRC Sedra) for vulnerable individuals and families, managed by IOM and funded by the European Commission – DG ECHO, scaled-up capacity in August and can now accommodate up to 182 (final maximum capacity is expected to be 400). Refugees and migrants are voluntarily accommodated in TRC Sedra and are screened for medical needs and vulnerabilities. Those accommodated are also provided with a range of key basic services including food, medical assistance, provision of NFIs, free legal aid and psychosocial support.

Given capacity limits at TRC Sedra and the lack of operational alternatives, previously established informal settlements of varying size at a range of locations in USC persist as a stop-gap measure. The two largest such settlements are the so-called Borići Dormitory in Bihać and on a field in Trnovi in Velika Kladuša (VK). Though the population is highly volatile and numbers fluctuate on a daily basis, up to an estimated 1,170 refugees and migrants currently reside on just these two sites and the living and sanitary conditions continue to deteriorate and present a range of protection related concerns. An unknown number of refugees and migrants with limited funds are also reported to rent private accommodation in USC. The Borići Dormitory has been identified as having potential as a site to be winterized in order to address a portion of the remaining accommodation capacity gaps as winter approaches -- very real challenges to this alternative exist. In any case, even with the realization of all currently envisaged accommodation sites in USC, significant gaps would remain over winter.

A range of actors, on-site and through mobile teams at both formal and informal sites, operate in USC and directly provide or refer refugees and migrants to a range of services including transportation to and from key services, interpretation, free legal aid, protection sensitive accommodation, psychosocial support, and medical assistance. Specific services are also provided to children and mothers through a Child Friendly Space (CFS) and Mother Baby Corner (MBC) at the Borići Dormitory and in TRC Sedra. Among others, actors include UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF, the Red Cross, local health care service providers, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Vaša Prava BiH (VP), Save the Children, World Vision, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), and independent volunteers. The USC Ministry of Interior continue to operate police patrols to improve the security of these sites.