UN Agency Steps Up Effort to Assist Migrants Reaching Bosnia

The United Nations migration agency has allocated internal resources to support the Red Cross in Trebinje, southern Bosnia to provide on-arrival support to migrants through the purchase of food, hygienic products and clothing.

To cope with additional arrivals, International Organization for Migration has also increased the staffing of its migrant protection teams in East Sarajevo and Mostar. They are IOM’s first line responders and, when needed, provide transport and medical and psycho-social assistance, especially to vulnerable migrants. To assist authorities to communicate with the new arrivals and ensure that those in need have access to medical support, IOM has recruited a translator for Arabic language and an on-call doctor in Trebinje.

“It is critical that each migrant is treated with dignity and respect”

Bosnia has recently experienced an increased influx of migrants that are arriving to its eastern border with Montenegro. The latest arrivals originate mostly from North Africa, through Greece, Albania, on through Montenegro to Trebinje. They arrive in small groups composed predominantly of single adult men. From January 1 to December 26, Bosnian border police detained 735 migrants. In 2016, less than 100 migrants weer detained. This represents a significant increase and has put the capacity of the relevant authorities and national aid agencies such as the Red Cross under strain. In response, IOM, in line with its mandate as the UN migration agency, has stepped up its efforts to assist them, in collaboration with other UN agencies.

“It is critical that each migrant is treated with dignity and respect for their basic human rights, including their right to claim asylum in BiH,” said Peter Van der Auweraert, IOM’s newly appointed representative in Bosnia.

“This is why we are reinforcing our migrant protection teams, as they play a critical role in supporting authorities with assessing needs and ensuring access to the appropriate assistance.”

Van der Auweraert does not believe that Bosnia will see a large influx of migrants and refugees in the coming period.

Migrants are not aware of landmine danger

“Together with UNHCR and its other UN partners, IOM will, however, continue to work with the BiH asylum and migration authorities to ensure that they have the necessary support and capacity to manage the continued arrival of small groups of migrants and refugees, also through the readmission as it is currently in place with Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia”.

One final protection activity IOM is currently preparing in partnership with National Society of Red Cross is the provision of information about what areas in Bosnia that remain mine-contaminated following the war in the 1990s.

“Migrants are not aware of this danger”, Van der Auweraert said, “and while there have been no incidents so far, it is important to ensure that this remains this way, as some of the areas through which migrants are traveling remain dangerous in this regard”.

While ensuring that migrants’ immediate humanitarian needs are met is critical, it is also important to ensure that those who do not want asylum – or, indeed, are found not to be in need of international protection – have access to a dignified solution to their situation. IOM is also increasing its capacity to offer Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) support to migrants who want to return home. Its migrant protection teams are currently being trained to provide eligible migrants with counselling and information in this respect. For those who want to return home, the AVRR project offers free services, including the obtaining of the necessary travel and identity documents, a return flight ticket and financial assistance at the beginning and the end of the return process.

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