Development of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bihac, July 2018 / copyright: Gabriel Tizon


With Hungarian migration politics becoming more and more restrictive, more and more people decided to take the route through Bosnia in order to get to Croatia and then Slovenia. This development began in the end of 2017 and is still continuing and intensifiying. Again, this new shift shows that migration movements cannot be stopped by putting up fences; instead, the main effect of this policy is that it forces those intent on crossing into more and more vulnerable situations.

Since spring 2018 the numbers of people in Bosnia is growing rapidly: UNHCR counted 2,557 new arrivals in the country in May [1], compared to only 237 people in January. By the end of June 2018 680 persons have applied for asylum [2]. According to the Bosnian Government, between 80 and 120 people are arriving daily since the beginning of 2018 [3]. Many arrive from Serbia, motivated by the physical and moral fatigue of having lived in camps and forests for months or in hope of better conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as better chances to continue their journey. Others arrive via Albania and Montenegro.

With the increase of arrivals in Bosnia and Herzegovina the capacity of the two main asylum centers, both a few kilometers away from Sarajevo, was quickly exceeded. There have also been stories about mistreatment, lack of food and unprofessional behavior of the police, including corruption and bribery especially in the closed centre in Lukavica. Outside of the centres many are sleeping rough in the streets, especially in and around Sarajevo, a transit location for most people going further North. Organizations working in the field estimate that there are approximately 2,500 people in the entire Northern region. Most of them reside in the towns close to the border, especially in Velika Kladuša and Bihać, each accommodating around 700 people. In Velika, about 400 people sleep in a “camp” – a kind of garden area in a suburb where they put up tents – the rest in an aircraft hangar, as well as abandoned buildings throughout the city. As for Bihać, migrants stay in the surrounding forests and in a former student residence. Most of them sleep on the floor in a building in danger of collapsing and therefore not safe to be used at all. Food is provided once a day by the Red Cross.

This dire situation, characterized by a lack of adequate shelter, sanitation, food, or medical care, puts people stuck in Bosnia in a very vulnerable position. The humanitarian crisis is acute and local civil society alongside small NGOs are struggling to provide food, shelter and assistance – tasks that should be addressed by the government, as guaranteed by (international) laws and conventions. Access to asylum is still limited and the procedures are not clear, as well as access to the health system or any other services provided by the state. Although it is the European Union’s policy of closed borders that forces people to live in these conditions, the EU prefers to keep its eyes closed and does very little to alleviate the situation.


Detailed reports about the developments can be found here:


Violence continues

The same patterns that we started documenting at the Serbian borders to Croatia and Hungary, can now be seen at the Northern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There, Croatian security officers prevent people from getting into their country using physical and verbal violence and denying access to the asylum system, while pushing them back.  Furthermore we have been documenting plenty of cases that raise the suspicion that the Croatian border police is working together with the Slovenian police, coordinating deportations from Slovenia (which is part of the Schengen zone!) back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. We recognized that especially the ones that are returning to Velika Kladusa, including children, being pushed back and violently beaten up. The officers are using metal sticks, batons and even electro shocks towards the people.


  1. UNHCR (11.06.2018): Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Nations Country Team (UNCT) Operational Update, Refugee/Migrant situation, 1-31 May 2018;
  2. UNHCR (09.07.18): Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Nations Country Team (UNCT) Operational Update, Refugee/Migrant situation, 1-30 June 2018;
  3. Are You Syrious (15.06.18): Daily Digest. Bosnia-the end of the road?;