With increasing numbers of transiting irregular migrants and persons seeking asylum, complicated by COVID-19-related challenges, IOM seeks to continue to support the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to effectively manage a functioning migrant reception system that is in line with international standards, adheres to best practice health practices in the case of COVID-19 mitigation, and provides living conditions at an acceptable standard, where dignity is maintained and basic needs are met. IOM is further committed to crisis recovery and crisis prevention related to the potential deterioration of social cohesion of host communities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as by rising levels of xenophobia, and violent extremist narratives.
IOM will continue working with the UN, civil society, and state partners to provide support and assistance to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, in Bosnia and Herzegovina in temporary reception centres and elsewhere.
IOM will additionally be supporting and reinforcing the migration and border management capacities of key State, Cantonal and local level institutions engaged in the migration response, namely the BiH Ministry of Security (the Border Police and the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs).
IOM will continue working with survivors of the Holocaust and their families, to provide humanitarian assistance to survivors of human rights violations.
Since the beginning of 2018, IOM, together with UNHCR, has led the response on behalf of the UN in BiH in light of the mixed asylum-seeker and migrant profile of those in need of assistance, and in support of the responsible BiH institutions. IOM plans to continue to support BiH State authorities in CCCM throughout 2021, including in:
- administration of centres
- coordination of centres
- management of centres
This includes the provision of technical equipment, and registration software, alongside capacity-building activities for officials at key border crossing points and migrant reception centres as well as significant investments in establishing new or upgrading/reconstructing of existing reception facilities to enhance the dignity and living conditions of migrants and asylum seekers.
In these roles, IOM works closely with UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, the Danish Refugee Council and other partners to mainstream and build the capacity of mental health, gender-based violence mitigation, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services and protections in CCCM and throughout the overall humanitarian response. IOM CCCM staff refer migrants in need of protection and health services, including MHPSS services/activities. However, a pressing need exists to implement a system of secure digital personal health records, to track migrants' full health history across facilities and borders.
IOM, together with the implementing partners Red Cross and the local non-governmental organization (NGO) Pomozi.ba, will continue to provide food for migrants and asylum seekers accommodated in the six temporary reception centres, as well as the state-managed Refugee Reception Centre Salakovac. IOM supports the preparation and distribution of three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and two snacks, according to set standard menus that ensure sufficient nutritional value and daily calorie intake. IOM will also continue to support the running and maintenance of ‘open kitchens’ in the temporary reception centres allowing migrants and asylum seekers to cook their own food.
IOM, in synergy with UNICEF nutrition and maternal activities, will continue providing complementary food and nutrition to children, in cases where mothers are unable to breastfeed, or to children/infants and mothers who are in need of complementary food/nutrition.
In temporary reception centres, which host up to 7,500 migrants and asylum seekers per day, IOM provides basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services, such as hygiene promotion activities and distribution of, and instruction in the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other COVID-19 prevention measures. This WASH support includes safe drinking water, either through connection to the public water supply or through water cistern/tanks and the provision of toilets and showers, in accordance with minimum standards (SPHERE/EASO Guidance on reception conditions, operational standards and indicators), separated by gender and with adapted facilities for persons with disabilities.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is also distributing PPE to migrants and staff, and is implementing health, hygiene and other COVID-19 prevention measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 within the migrant population. Further COVID-19 prevention measures are needed; in particular, there is a need to create additional room in most facilities to ensure physical distancing can be achieved without straining current capacities and to avoid unacceptable waiting times.
In temporary reception centres, IOM, together with partners and the participation of migrants and asylum seekers, operates a laundry system allowing the centre's population to wash their personal belongings.
In addition to the state-managed Refugee Reception Centre Salakovac and the Asylum Reception Centre Delijas, IOM provides safe, dignified and secure shelter to migrants and asylum seekers in six temporary reception centres.
With a total capacity of approximately 4,800 beds, and with an estimated migrant population of around 10,000 at any given time, there remains a need to increase the country's accommodation capacity to offer safe, dignified and secure shelter to migrants. This can be achieved either through the expansion of the existing temporary reception centres, through the opening of new sites, or both.
The expansion of the current temporary reception centres would require reconstruction works and an upscaling of existing infrastructure, in particular with electricity and heating. The opening of a new site, depending on the conditions, would at a minimum require furniture and the activation or restablishment of basic infrastructure for electricity, water supply, gas, sewage, etc. The need for expansion is additionally pertinent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as close quarters pose a risk to beneficiaries and staff. Steps have already been taken to create isolation centres and introduce other COVID-19 mitigation measures in the centres, such as the provision of PPEs.
Migrants and asylum seekers, both those within and those residing outside temporary reception centres, are in need of cultural, gender and age-sensitive non-food items (NFIs), including hygiene/dignity kits, PPE, clothes and other necessities, including winter clothes (jackets, raincoats, hats and gloves) as well as additional blankets and sleeping bags during winter. While IOM and partners receive NFIs as donations, this occurs on an ad-hoc basis.
IOM will continue contributing towards reparation efforts of Holocaust survivors in BiH through the provision of social humanitarian assistance to improve their living conditions, and enhance societal understanding of the Holocaust's consequences to future generations and society as a whole. Further, IOM will support processes to ensure that survivors and their families receive recognition and reparation for the harm they suffered.
Address the drivers and longer-term impacts of crises and displacement, supporting durable solutions and investing in crisis prevention
IOM will target local communities with low or deteriorating social cohesion, institutions dedicated to providing MHPSS, civil society organizations (CSOs), and educational institutions (schools, universities, institutes), for a comprehensive approach to improving social cohesion.
IOM will directly support and work with youth, families, marginalized community members, religious, cultural, and education leaders, and individuals facing socio-economic stressors.
IOM will continue expanding its support to survivors of the BiH 1992-1995 war, and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, in particular, inter alia by helping to expand institutional reparations mechanisms for survivors.
IOM will build upon its existing social cohesion infrastructure to support cohesion in host communities of people on the move to ensure these communities do not fall prey to xenophobia and divisive narratives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the mental health and psycho-social wellbeing, economic wellbeing, and the social cohesiveness of many communities in the Western Balkans (WB) region. Social cohesion, the level of interlinkage between individuals and institutions, is key for resilient communities that can withstand emergencies and adverse events - i.e. community resilience. Community resilience is key to IOM programming, as it supports host communities and helps to prevent unsafe migration. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacts social cohesion in terms of MHPSS by increasing social isolation of individuals while also reducing the economic wellbeing of communities; however, it also present an opportunity to rebuild more resilient communities by tackling not only COVID-19 related issues, but also other, more systemic, underlying issues.
To ensure social cohesion-building recovery, it is key to support civil society in efforts to provide localized mental health and psycho-social support. MHPSS represents the cornerstone of social cohesion in recovery contexts, as it is the pre-requisite for resilient and engaged individuals. As such, these efforts need to focus on the wider field of MHPSS, apart from traditional providers of such services (e.g. medical institutions and mental health centers) and focus on schools, universities, local NGOs, the private sector and other institutions with which communities interact on a daily basis.
Economic recovery and improvement of social cohesion need to be based on a concept of rebuilding for resilience. To do so, the recovery must be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable and interlinked. Economic recovery must focus on supporting social businesses and cooperative business models to ensure the presence of incentives for environmental and social consciousness.
Environmental sustainability can provide better, and resilience-building jobs, while supporting community self-sustainability and inter-community cooperation at the same time. Social cohesion should be built using participatory mechanisms, such as participatory budgeting, community dialogues and grants, and civil dialogue, in order to ensure long lasting effects. All the above principles support stronger social ties, which in turn can support stronger psycho-social resilience, economic recovery, and environmental sustainability, creating a positive cycle.
Weak social cohesion is one of the primary drivers of the rise in violent extremism recruitment that was seen since 2014 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as of the rise in ultra-nationalist rhetoric. Social cohesion building, in the context of crisis prevention, must be addressed through empowering local actors – local communities, youth, families, marginalized community members, religious, cultural, and education leaders – and adopting tailored approaches, including those sensitive to local cultures and religious beliefs. The COVID-19 outbreak has additionally intensified vulnerabilities of the target youth, as well as the wider community. At the same time, the rise of climate and ecological issues cannot be ignored as a factor of deterioration of social cohesion. It is necessary to move towards the integration of green transition principles in all medium- and long-term crisis prevention strategies, whenever appropriate.
IOM will continue expanding its presence in local communities, and host communities in particular, through young community liaison points who can build networks with local stakeholders and institutions, and work with individuals to build critical thinking, conflict mediation, and socialization skills. IOM will continue working with communities to establish or expand existing participative structures that engage people in sustainable ways to imagine and implement community projects. IOM will work with communities to build resilience to xenophobia. Further, IOM will promote environmental sustainability as a way of building better communities, greener spaces, healthy individuals, and sustainable local economies
Together with relevant institutions, IOM will work to create sustainable mechanisms for the above areas of activity.
IOM plans to continue improving access to justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, to empower them, and ultimately to support the realization of their right to reparation. This will be done by laying the groundwork for a targeted evidence-based and informed reparations process and package for survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while also building the capacity of Government representatives and civil society to understand the link between services provision and reparations efforts for survivors and their families. Further, IOM will work to ensure that second generations understand the transgenerational trauma caused by sexual violence on the national level in BiH.
IOM's Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) teams will collect data related to occupancy and capacity rates in reception centres and migrant flows to provide the humanitarian community and interested public with information on trends and identified gaps to ensure an effective, coherent, and well-evidenced migrant crisis response.
To improve the understanding of migrants’ profiles in BiH and the Western Balkans region, IOM aims to continue rolling out its DTM methodology. Since 2015, the DTM regional team collects information on newly arrived migrants and refugees registered by the authorities or counted by IOM field colleagues. To better understand the capacities and the changing situation in the country, DTM initiated the collection of data in mid-2016 related to occupancy and capacity rates in the reception centres, providing the humanitarian community and interested public with information on the gaps in the reception systems and responses.
Dispersed movements in the WB region and limited availability of data on irregular border crossings represent a challenge in tracking new arrivals in some of the countries. Available information from the field indicated that most of the migrants seek assistance in the reception centres; therefore, this challenge was solved by tracking the number of newly arrived migrants in the facilities or unofficial sites - which was then taken as a reliable proxy for estimates on the velocity of population movements.
IOM will increase capacity of its field staff and national level counterparts to carry out site assessments (data collection and regular reporting). IOM will also engage in capacity building for country offices to increase information management capacities for gathering timely data on migrants needs and subsequently ensure a better link between findings and operational response. Finally, IOM will create a comprehensive analysis of trends of migrant profiles, vulnerabilities and needs, such as vulnerability to human trafficking and other exploitative practices, and mental health and psychosocial support needs.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The map used here is for illustration purposes only. Names and boundaries do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by IOM.Figures are as of 31 December 2022. For more details of IOM's operational capacity in country, please see the IOM Capacity section.