Migrants on the Balkan route | Photo: EPA/Koca Sulejmanovic
Migrants on the Balkan route | Photo: EPA/Koca Sulejmanovic

The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Bosnia has grown rapidly in recent months, according to NGO Help Refugees. Hundreds are left homeless and sleeping rough, since the country's asylum seeker centers are already full.

Border closures in the Balkan states have pushed a larger number of people to travel towards Bosnia in their attempt to reach the European Union. 

In 2017, Bosnian authorities registered 755 people; this year between January and February alone, 520 people arrived. In the coming weeks, another 1,000 people are expected to arrive from Serbia and Montenegro. 

Bosnia "not prepared" for influx 

Help Refugees, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that seeks to support refugees across Europe and the Middle East, said the new arrivals are mainly a transient population. Most are passing through Bosnia, rather than looking to set up roots in the country. 

Recent improvements in the weather have led to a greater number of arrivals, as well as a greater number of people moving north, including families with small children. 

According to Help Refugees, Bosnia "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." Some 300 people are sleeping at the border between Croatia and Bosnia, and "have faced unlawful pushbacks by Croatian authorities." 

Help Refugees said police have "confiscated the shoes of people who are caught while attempting to cross the border, a practice that has been documented across Europe - including in Calais - since 2015." 

Challenges to identify minors 

Help Refugees said that Bosnia's comparatively poor infrastructure and lack of resources for refugees affected vulnerable populations who require specialist support especially.  

The identification 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," according to the NGO. 

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