Most migrants using Bosnia as a transit toward Western Europe used to be Syrian refugees, but now most of them are economic migrants coming from Pakistan, Bosnia’s Security Minister, Dragan Mektic, said at a press conference on Thursday.
“When we follow the structure of these migrants, most used to be Syrians, about 30 percent of them. Now this has been turned around, the number of economic migrants coming from crisis regions is increasing. Most of them are currently Pakistanis,” Mektic said.
The third most prevalent group are those coming from Iran, he said, “and we have serious problems with Iranians”.
“Serbia has removed visa requirements for Iranian citizens and now they enter Serbia legally, but they come to us illegally and then move on toward Western Europe,” he said.
The conference came after a session of the recently established Operative Headquarters, formed to tackle the migrant situation. The Operative Headquarters consists of Bosnia's Security Ministry, the Human Rights and Refugees Ministry, the Foreign Policy Ministry, Bosnia's Border Police, the State Investigation and Protection Agency, the Foreigners’ Affairs Service of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the operative headquarters of both of Bosnia’s semi-autonomous entities and Brcko District.
The participants agreed to meet every Thursday morning and then hold a press conference “as long as there is public and media interest” in regard to the migrant issue, the Minister said.
He said that 5,116 migrants were registered entering the country in 2018 and 4,526 of them said they intend to seek asylum but only 475 submitted such a request. He also said border police sent 3,300 migrants back from the borders.
“Sending additional officers to the borders produced extraordinarily good results. After we positioned them in the Visegrad area, the pressure increased at Gacko and Bileca (further south along the border). I spoke to the police headquarters of the Federation entity and several other agencies, and they confirmed that they are prepared to provide additional police forces,” he said.
Mektic also spoke about allegations coming from Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity, which suggest that there is a “secret plan coming from Sarajevo” to populate the RS with these migrants.
“All this talk about some secret Sarajevo plan to populate the RS area with 11 thousand migrants is simply nonsense and made up. It is simply impossible for that to happen. It will not happen,” he said.
He also criticized Bosnia’s neighboring countries for sending their migrants to Bosnia.
“At the Operative Headquarters today, I said that I don’t want even one migrant to be hidden from this headquarters. I have information stating that certain countries present that, since the beginning of this year, they have had 100 to 300 migrants. How come that that we have 5,000 of them here then?” he asked.