Migrants on the Balkan route - Credit:EPA/ZOLTAN BALOGH
Migrants on the Balkan route - Credit:EPA/ZOLTAN BALOGH

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Bosnia is failing to protect asylum seekers. The organization is calling for greater efforts to protect the human rights of refugees and migrants there.

Bosnia is reportedly failing to protect asylum seekers and seems to be ''ill-equipped to manage'' the increase of migrant arrivals in the country, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Elida Vikic. 

Vikic cited reports from local activists and NGOs saying that "the government is failing to adequately protect the rights of refugees who suffer in the streets without adequate food, shelter, and medical care."

In an article published by Human Rights Watch on the situation of asylum seekers in the Balkan country, she highlighted that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "1,138 asylum seekers and migrants arrived to Bosnia between January 1 and March 3, more than the total for 2017."

The reason for this migrant influx in Bosnia is likely an increase in border enforcement across the Balkans: 

"The current influx of people crossing into Bosnia from Serbia and Montenegro may be linked to increased border enforcement and pushbacks at neighboring Croatia's border with Serbia. People either try to apply for asylum in Bosnia or make their way into the European Union by crossing the less secured 900-kilometer border between Bosnia and Croatia, according to media reports and authorities," the article said. 

Vikic also added that according to the UNHCR, "many asylum seekers face obstacles accessing the asylum procedure" due to onerous registration requirements and tight deadlines for lodging applications, as more new arrivals are expected in coming months.

Call for action

The HRW article also mentions the fact that "the Bosnian Islamic Community has called on authorities to do more to meet the basic needs of refugees." However, the government has been able to accommodate just 154 people in the only open asylum center "due to limited capacity."

Vikic also added that ''private citizens, many of whom experienced horrors during the Bosnian war and displacement, have been largely supportive and offered help to refugees and migrants.

"However these noble efforts are not a substitute for effective state action."

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