As the spring comes, more refugees are expected to try to reach the European Union by travelling through Bosnia. However, authorities are hardly prepared for a sudden influx and the official accommodation centers are already full, meaning that hundreds of asylum seekers are left homeless.
Over the past few months, the number of refugees and asylum seekers arriving to Bosnia has steadily increased. Border closures in other Balkan states have pushed greater numbers of people to travel through Bosnia, in their attempt to reach the European Union, according to Help Refugees. In 2017, authorities registered 755 people. This year, in January and February alone, 520 people arrived. The trend has continued into March and in the coming weeks another 1,000 people are expected to arrive from Serbia and Montenegro.
Civil society groups are approaching saturation point
The new arrivals are a transient population: most are passing through Bosnia, rather than looking to set up roots in the country. Recent improvements in the weather has led to a greater number of arrivals, as well as a greater number of people moving onward – including families with small children. Bosnia, however, is hardly prepared for this sudden influx; official accommodation centers are already full, meaning that hundreds of asylum seekers are left homeless and sleeping rough. Locals and grassroots groups have identified hostels and arranged accommodation for some, but MSF’s Stephane Moissaing has warned that civil society groups are approaching saturation point.
The transient nature of the refugee population in Bosnia creates challenges in and of itself, which are then exacerbated by the country’s poor infrastructure and lack of resources. The impact of this is multifaceted, but has a particular effect on vulnerable populations who require specialist support. The identification and referral of unaccompanied and separated children, for example, remains a key challenge for Bosnian authorities. Unaccompanied minors are required, by law, to have legal guardians who can make decisions in their best interest – yet proper identification, referral and communication barriers (due to the lack of on available interpreters) can make this challenging in practice.