Since 2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the key transit country for migrants heading towards the EU. The EU has yet to apply lessons learned from the challenging migration situation that developed in the Balkans following the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement.
As the negotiations around the 2021–2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) continue, we hope that the EU will seize this opportunity to ensure that future financial instruments are shaped so that the humanitarian consequences of current EU migration management priorities in the region can be adequately addressed.
Last week, the Vučjak camp in northwest Bosnia and Herzegovina was finally closed.
Called ‘The Jungle’ by its inhabitants, the camp had no running water, no electricity, no usable toilets, and mouldy, leaking, and overcrowded tents. No medical assistance was available for the up to 1,000 people who were housed in just 80 tents. In recent months, volunteers from the Red Cross Society have been working tirelessly to do all they can to help the camp’s population. Yet, even they called for the camp’s closure. A location for a new camp has finally been agreed, but the clock is ticking as winter sets in.
The majority of Vučjak evacuees did not want to be relocated to the new site, which is further away from the Croatian border.
According to UNHCR estimates, there are currently 7,000 migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These numbers do not reflect the actual situation as many migrants do not register for fear that doing so would prevent them from moving on.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are working with other organisations to ensure people have access to basic food, water and shelter, as well as to first aid and psychological support. We also plan to assist the local population, which was vulnerable even before the migration crisis.
The way in which the EU's current migration priorities are implemented in the region is contributing to enhanced vulnerabilities. It is guided by efforts to better manage migration and border controls, and to increase access to protection in the region – priorities which are reflected in the proposed future EU budget. The MFF could be instrumental in supporting migrants and host communities.
The future MFF ought to allow for principled funding to remain available for humanitarian activities.