Immigrant Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo – A 1,000-bed camp for homeless migrants has begun operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with IOM support. The new facility, in the northern city of Bihac will remain open for the duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
When the virus began to hit the country an estimated 2,500 migrants had no access to official accommodation centres. Most were squatting in abandoned buildings, without any humanitarian assistance or, critical in COVID-19 times, adequate medical care.
In response to an urgent request from the authorities, IOM acted to minimize the risk to migrants and local communities alike.
The first step was to expand capacity in an existing shelter in the capital Sarajevo by 1,000 beds to 2,400. The new camp in Bihac, which opened last week, will – like the Sarajevo facility – provide basic humanitarian aid, including accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care.
Migrants also have access to free WiFi. The site is jointly managed by IOM and the Danish Refugee Council, its partner for medical assistance.
Since January 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina has become a key route for migrants to travel from Greece to other parts of the European Union. In the period between then and now, close to 60,000 migrants arrived, and today, an estimated 8,000 remain stranded in the country, their movements severely curtailed due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The new camp will receive single males only, who are being relocated by local police. On arrival they will receive a hygiene kit and initial medical screening for COVID-19. The site has dedicated isolation zones where new arrivals will stay for 14 days, and quarantine spaces where those who display COVID-19-like symptoms will receive medical supervision.
IOM Chief of Mission Peter Van der Auweraert noted that the rapid opening of the site
“shows what can be achieved when local authorities, donors and international organizations work as one. It’s a critical step towards including migrants into the COVID-19 response by ensuring that they have access to proper medical screening and care, in addition to humanitarian assistance.”
The emergency site was constructed from the ground up with the financial support of the European Union and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).