Urgent Humanitarian Situation: Migrants in BiH – Update Eleven: 6 January 2019

Posted: 6. Januara 2019. in Intervjui

In December, No Name Kitchen and Balkan Info Van registered 23 violence reports. Most of the people were captured in Croatia and subsequently returned to Bosnia, but there are several reports about pushbacks from Slovenia, too. Report also notices a new trend as emerging within the last month — the use of fires to burn the belongings of people on the move, increase in the number of reports of individuals having their shoes taken off by police officers during pushback, as well as reports about being pushed into frigid or icy water along the border

A squat used by Migrants in Velika Kladuša

Background to the Migrants Crisis in BiH

More than 23,000 Migrants entered BiH in 2018, and have used two different routes. There are firstly; through Albania and Montenegro and secondly, through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or Bulgaria, and Serbia. The majority of arriving people then head towards Sarajevo and Una-Sana canton, as they attempt to enter the European Union through Croatia. Currently it is estimated that there are between 4,500 and 6,000 Migrants in the country, with an average daily entry number of between 100 to 150 people. The closest settlements to the border with Croatia are in Una-Sana canton and the town of Bihać. Correspondingly these are the main destinations within BiH for the majority of Migrants. But the Bosnian migrant route also includes places other than Bihać and Velika Kladuša. For example, there are places in Western Herzegovina such as Mostar, Čapljina and Ljubuski, among others, from where Migrants cross into Imotski, Vrgorac and other locations in Croatia. As the winters in Western Herzegovina are usually snow-free, using this route makes sense when attention is focussed on Bihać and Velika Kladuša. Once inside Croatia, Migrants are able to reach their next immediate target, the Slovenian border, in three to four hours, by getting a lift with local van owners. Up to 40 Migrants at a time have been caught by Croatian police on occasions

The situation facing Migrants and host communities in BiH still remains of considerable concern, but significant and very welcome improvements in shelter provision have been made since we started advocating for greatly increased humanitarian support eleven weeks ago. However, exposure to violence continues for refugees attempting border crossings and the limited access to health care still appears very worrying too. In broader terms, the lack of longer-term political solutions to grapple with migration as a European problem – rather then something just to be dumped on Bosnia to cope with – means that the issues covered in these weekly updates will simply continue through 2019.

The situation facing Migrants in BiH on Sunday 6 January 2019    

  • IOM continues expanding Miral's capacity to house Migrants by building new infrastructure and delivering 40 shipping containers. The 40 containers will raise the Miral centre's capacity up to 700 people (six persons per container).

 

A photo of conditions inside Miral in late December

  • We had been unsure about the status of the Trnovi/Drmeljevo camp last week, as there were conflicting reports of Migrants returning to the site, even though it was flooded. On 21 November, representatives of IOM and UNHCR came to Trnovi camp to move people on a voluntary basis to Miral. We know now that the day after, food was no longer provided to people remaining in Trnovi, and subsequently the water was shut off and the toilets were taken out. UNHCR used the same tactic to clear the last 141 VK refugees from Kupljensko just across the border on 1 August 1996. Despite this, some people stayed in the makeshift camp at Trnovi, sleeping under tents to avoid the conflicts and violence inside Miral.
  • On the 5th of December, the council gave the remaining residents of the camp 30 minutes to take their belongings and burned all of the items and structures which remained afterwards.

 

A photo of the final clearance of the Trnovi Camp

  • IOM have reported that after a month of construction works, the first migrant families are now moving into the completely renovated facility of the Borići Dormitory in Bihać. This work has been supported by the USAID / Office of Transition Initiatives and the European Commission. Since 29 October, Migrants and Refugees from the Dormitory have been housed in the nearby temporary BIRA reception centre to free up the facility for complete internal reconstruction. It is not known how many people will be accommodated in the renovated facility, but the conditions appear to be much improved (below).

 

 

 

  • Last week IOM organized activities for students of the Nusret Keskin – Braco Art School from Bihać who painted a room intended for a playground and a space for socializing for the children of migrants located in Borići Dormitory.
  • Approximately 100 refugees and migrants continue to live in Velika Kladuša outside of Miral, dispersed around various squats and informal residences in and around the town. On 3 January, a house in Velika Kladuša being used as a squat by Migrants was set on fire.  The local fire brigade responded quickly are were able to extinguish the blaze.



Latest Figures: Updated Locations and Numbers of Migrants in BiH

We continue to try to provide accurate updated figures for each weekly update, and we are always most grateful to receive further information and clarifications from our colleagues and contributors. Please fine below updated figures as best we understand then to be as of today:

  • Migrants are now returning to the Borići Centre (Dormitory) in Bihac. The premises have been transformed. It is not known how many people have returned so far or what the intended capacity is.
  • During renovations at Borići, Migrants were moved to the Bira factory building, which we understood to have been accommodating some 2,000 people. Some of this was in tented accommodation because of the very high numbers. This number will now start to fall as Migrants move back to Borići.
  • We have received information that between 180 and 220 Migrants sleep rough on the streets of Sarajevo, the figure usually being closer to 220 people.
  • We have also been informed that the stated potential capacity of 800 people at Ušivak is too high as the site is already crowded and between 550 and 650 people would be an absolute maximum
  • The expansion at Miral with 40 shipping containers is intended to raise the overall capacity of the site to some 700 people.
  • Therefore, still including the large numbers at Bira factory building as we do not know how many people have moved back to Borići, our revised figures for the location of Migrants in BiH, as we understand them, still suggest a shortfall in under-cover accommodation for some 490 people, although this figure should reduce by the planned number at Borići. The breakdown is as follows:

 

Location Name of Centre Current Occupancy by Location Potential Capacity of under-cover Accommodation
Una-Sana canton, Federation of BiH Borići (Dormitory) – Bihać ?

(Unknown number of migrants have returned last week)

?

(planning figure unknown)

Bira – Bihać 2,000

(including some in tents outside. This figure will start to reduce now that Borići is re-opened)

1,200
Miral – Velika Kladuša 300 700
Hotel Sedra – near Bihać 430 430
Informal tented camp at Trnovi/Drmeljevo Closed Closed
Sarajevo canton, Federation of BiH Ušivak 520 650

(maximum estimate)

House for All – Sarajevo 85 85
Immigration Centre – East Sarajevo 115 115
Asylum Centre Delijaš 154 154
Sleeping Rough on streets of Sarajevo 220

(estimate between 180 and 220 people each day, but usually 220)

0

(not under cover)

Herzegovina-Neretva canton, Federation of BiH Refugee Centre – Salakovac near Mostar 250 250
Republika Srpska Duje – Doboj East 30 30
Total 4,104 3,614

 

Specific Issues and Areas of Need

  • Appropriate shelter and accommodation: Winter conditions will continue to highlight the importance of appropriate accommodation for Migrants. The average winter temperatures in much of BiH are extremely low, dropping to minus 15 degrees at night. IOM has made enormous efforts in adapting several centres in Una-Sana canton. 40 shipping containers are being installed at Miral and the Borići Centre (Dormitory) is now re open and taking in returning migrants. Conditions are still insufficient in some of the buildings provided, and some Migrants remain in tented accommodation.
  • Food Security: Correspondingly, the provision of adequate food is vitally important as conditions are so poor, and this is the main area of our intervention by the RCSBiH. Some 3,000 people receive 3 meals a day, hot meals and lunch packages, throughout the country, but mostly in Una Sana canton. This food provision is funded by IOM until 31 Match 2019 and then will be taken up by the IFRC Appeal funding
  • First Aid and access to Health Care Services: appears to remain a major gap even with the support of UN, Red Cross and NGO agencies, as there is no provision for Migrants from the Government Health Service, and access to health care is reported to also be very limited for many vulnerable people in the resident population too – including in Sarajevo itself. There seems to a significant problem of coordination and referral pathways between healthcare actors, resulting in persistent unmet needs identified amongst both registered and non-registered Migrants as well within the most vulnerable of the resident population.
  • Exposure to Violence: Migrants are frequently subject to beatings and other violent acts when attempting to cross international borders. Border Violence Monitoring is a project documenting illegal push-backs and police violence inflicted by EU member state authorities, mainly on the borders of Serbia/Croatia, Serbia/Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia. The following link provides much detail, including reports and video footage of these violations: https://www.borderviolence.eu/proof-of-push-backs/?fbclid=IwAR1bzr37iDFbnnyyBqs8C1DBNvN7r0IHTKnMa6sB7bH_yLw7UeQ1r7cD6CE Further detailed reports of border violence have been provided this week:  https://medium.com/are-you-syrious/border-violence-report-winter-in-velika-kladuša-c15423c6e4fe?fbclid=IwAR0hZBrrzPDGFmimcXJ_FkpgfCd2AKS07oJvoQnetBOQfd8zvJHjMryEFrY
  • Non-Food Items (NFIs): including winter clothes, sleeping bags and other items are also very important as the winter cold bites, and numerous agencies, including Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies have been making great efforts in this area.

Humanitarian Response by Organisation:

The central Government of BiH is in the lead with the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees and Ministry of Security allocated roles in coordinating and managing reception centres. However, the humanitarian response relies mostly on the humanitarian community, where UN agencies are the biggest stakeholders.

  • IOM is the main humanitarian actor, providing shelter for Migrants by renting Hotel Sedra, Bira and Miral, and the renovated Borići Dormitory in the Una Sana canton. As well as supporting food provision implemented by the RCSBiH. water and sanitation facilities are also provided by IOM in areas where no established infrastructure is available.
  • UNHCR is in charge of health care as well as supporting vulnerable groups by providing protection and accommodation in hostels and private accommodation. UNHCR also provided RCSBiH with significant resources and materials for distribution, including two field warehouses, six housing units, 7,000 blankets, 500 sleeping bags, 700 mats, 6,100 clothing items and 400 bags.
  • The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: In a very welcome announcement, on Saturday 8 December the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Population Movement”, requesting CHF 3.3 million over one year. http://adore.ifrc.org/Download.aspx?FileId=220998 . The focus is on shelter (Non-Food Items – NFIs), livelihoods and basic needs, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), Protection, Gender and Inclusion (PGI), and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
  • The operations of the RCSBiH are supported by the IFRC and the ICRC, and by specific Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies, including those of the UAE, Switzerland, Germany Italy, Turkey and Croatia. These combined efforts have provided significant support including the provision of tents, sleeping bags, NFIs, winter clothing and mobile kitchens.
  • Pomozi.ba, a local volunteer group, organized food distributions for Migrants sleeping rough in Sarajevo and are also in charge of food provision in the Ušivak centre near the city.
  • Danish Refugee Council and MSF are providing health care to Migrants in the US canton. MSF also provided a container used by RC first aid teams in Borići.
  • Latan’s restaurant in Velika Kladuša provides two hot meals per day, free of charge for any Migrant. This service is now financed by Lemon Foundation, a small NGO from the Netherlands and is supported locally by volunteers from SOS Team Kladuša.

Comment

Considerable improvements in access to shelter in buildings have been made since our first update of eleven weeks ago. Conditions remain very basic in some sites, but shelter is becoming less of a critical issue as worrying gaps remain in a number of other humanitarian sectors. These include; exposure to violence, access to health care and seemingly ongoing coordination issues between stakeholders. These gaps and key priorities are highlighted in the helpful ACAPS Briefing Note, which provides a strong evidence base for decision makers.

But the welcome improvements in dealing immediate with the immediate crisis do not address the ongoing political challenge of seeking a longer-term sustainable solution:

The wider Migrant Crisis across the Region

It will be important for stakeholders to note, that while this update concerns BiH specifically, the situation there is part of a wider crisis which remains unresolved. Indicative numbers in neighbouring Balkan countries are as follow:

Croatia: Hosts some 845 Migrants currently staying in two centres.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Hosts some 2,500 Migrants registered in centres and an estimated 13,000 irregular Migrants.

Serbia: Hosts some 4,000 registered Migrants in centres (of whom some 1,000 are children) and an estimated 500 migrants are located in unofficial sites.

Montenegro: Hosts some 3,500 Migrants in a series of centres.

Hungary: Hosts some 180 asylum seekers in two transit zones.

The funding environment is very challenging in all of these contexts, and increased and sustained humanitarian funding will be required to avert similar conditions to those seen in BiH – until such time as a longer-term solution is agreed at political levels.

Key stakeholders and Contacts:  

IOM BiH: Peter Van der Auweraert.

Email: PVANDERAUWERAERT@iom.int

UNHCR Sarajevo:

Stephanie Woldenberg. Email:  wolden@unhcr.org

IFRC Regional Office Budapest: Henriett Koos, Disaster and Crisis Response Snr. Officer

Tel : +36 1 888 4518    Mob. +36 70 430 6516   Email henriett.koos@ifrc.org

European Commission:

Press contacts:

British Embassy Sarajevo: Laurie Hunter. Laurie.Hunter@fco.gov.uk

DFID Migration Team, London:  Joe Kuper. Email j-kuper@dfid.gov.uk

British Red Cross, London: Ben Webster, Head of Emergencies.

Tel: +44 (0) 207 877 7615 Mobile: +44 (0) 7872 063 288  Email: BWebster@redcross.org.uk

ACAPS Geneva: Daniel Chaplin, Information Analyst.

Mobile: +44 (0)7908 499519 Skype: danrchaplin  Email : drc@acaps.org

 

 

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