The burden of the migrant crisis needs to be distributed more justly throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said during a visit to the Lipa migrant camp near the northwestern BiH town of Bihac on Thursday.
We see the need for a better distribution of the burden of the migrant crisis, for all areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be part of managing migrations, said Johansson.
The Lipa camp is about twenty kilometres from Bihac and unofficially there are about 800 migrants staying in the camp, which partially burnt down in December and migrants have been staying in tents.
The majority of illegal migrants were previously accommodated in the Bira camp in Bihac which was equipped with European funds but was closed in September 2020 due to opposition from local residents and authorities.
Johansson said that closing the Bira camp was a mistake. She said she came to Lipa because of concern about the humanitarian crisis after the fire. She underscored today that progress is visible in the conditions migrants are staying in.
It is our responsibility to manage migrations in an orderly way, so that they who need it obtain international protection while others need to return to their countries of origin, she said, adding that even though they do not have the right to remain in the EU, they still have their rights and dignity.
She underscored that it is necessary to strengthen capacities to manage illegal migration in BiH by speeding up the process of approving or rejecting asylum.
Una-Sana Canton Prime Minister Mustafa Ruznic said at Lipa that the new European pact on asylum and migration that Johansson is negotiating with member states foresees returning migrants to the external EU borders, which is why, he said, BiH will be “impacted the most and needs to prepare for that.”
“It seems that BiH will be a waiting room for migrants waiting for asylum in European countries or deportation to their country,” said Ružnic.
He underlined to the European Commission delegation that the canton can manage about 2,500 migrants and he called for a more just distribution of migrants throughout the rest of the country.
“BiH's efforts have been recognised, as have significant shortcomings in the distribution of the burden throughout the state,” Security Minister Selmo Cikotic said at Lipa.
According to the Commission's estimates, there are currently about 8,000 migrants in BiH and most of these are located in Una-Sana or Sarajevo cantons.
The member of the country's Presidency from the Republika Srpska entity, Milorad Dodik, in January refused to have a migrant centre set up in that entity.
Johansson is travelling to Sarajevo on Friday where she will meet with the three-man BiH Presidency, the prime minister as well as local migration agencies.