Amidst rising xenophobic sentiment in the country (see 29 April update on this platform), in mid-August residents of Velika Kladusa (in the Krajina region, on the Bosnian-Croatian border) staged a protest to denounce purported assaults by foreigners on local civilians. The protestors reportedly blocked a road leading to an asylum seeker reception centre. During the week of 24 August, the first confirmed Covid-19 cases were detected in IOM-operated migrant facilities. In two centres near Bihac, several people suffering mild cases were transferred to the local hospital–prompting anger from local residents.
Tensions have been rising within the wider Krajina region, which has essentially become a bottleneck on the route taken by migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers attempting to enter the EU via Croatia. On 26 August, Bosnian special forces were dispatched to the newly-created Lipa camp (near Bihac) to calm a protest following an alleged police beating of a homeless migrant. Media outlets report that IOM staff withdrew from the camp before the special forces arrived.
Authorities in the region, frustrated that other parts of the country are not sharing the migrant “burden,” have reportedly begun to prevent all new migrant arrivals by blocking the main highway into the region and turning away all non-nationals. On 19 August, the Coordination Committee on Migration in the Una-Sana Canton (within the Krajina region) adopted measures to restrict the freedom of movement of migrants not accommodated in official reception centres. As part of these measures, authorities banned: the transport of migrants and asylum seekers by public transport and taxis; the gathering of migrants and asylum seekers in public places; and the provision of private accommodation to them. Roadblocks have been set up, and police have also carried out raids on informal settlements and private accommodation, forcibly removing those apprehended while failing to provide them with alternative accommodation.
The canton’s health minister justified the measures, claiming that the number of migrants with coronavirus was rising by the day. “We can’t control them because they move in groups of 100. They don’t follow any rules or norms and we have to think about protecting citizens.”
According to the Red Cross, growing numbers have found themselves stuck between the canton and neighbouring Republika Srpska–denied entry to Una-Sana and prevented from returning to the Serb Republic. Some of those stranded are living in a hut built by the Red Cross, however others are having to camp outside and no toilet or washing facilities are available.
Commenting on the recent restrictions, Amnesty International stated, “These restrictive measures that target an entire group are disproportionate and discriminatory and should be immediately reversed.”
- Associated Press, “Tensions Grow as Bosnian Authorities Crack Down on Migrants,” New York Times, 27 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/08/27/world/europe/ap-eu-bosnia-migrants-2nd-ld-writethru.html
- ANSA, “Bosnia: Anti-Migrant Protest at Croatia Border,” InfoMigrants, 19 August 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/26705/bosnia-anti-migrant-protest-at-croatia-border
- D. Kovacevic, “Migrants ‘Stranded in Limbo’ at Bosnian Checkpoints,” Balkan Insight, 25 August 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/08/25/migrants-stranded-in-limbo-at-bosnian-checkpoints/
- Amnesty International, “Bosnia and Herzegovina: Reckless Restrictions of Movement Leave Refugees and Migrants Stranded Without Protection,” 25 August 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/bosnia-and-herzegovina-reckless-restrictions-of-movement-leave-refugees-and-migrants-stranded-without-protection/
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Bosnia and Herzegovina – 2019 Update,” October 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/bosnia-and-herzegovina