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Bosnia to Tighten Border Controls in Line With EU Demands

epa07119115 Bosnian border policemen guard at Maljevac border crossing with Croatia as a group of migrants attempting to cross into Croatia block the crossing, Velika Kladusa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 25 October 2018. According to reports, a group of some 100 migrants mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq attempting to cross into Western Europe erected tents at the border area to pressure neighboring Croatia to open border and let them travel north. Thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing wars and poverty in Asia and North Africa are sleeping rough in impoverished Bosnia, and many are growing concerned about the onset of cold winter weather and a lack of adequate shelters. EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

As part of the steps it needs to take to obtain EU candidate country status, Bosnia has adopted a comprehensive strategy on migration and asylum under which it will tighten border controls.

Bosnia’s government, the Council of Ministers, on Wednesday adopted an official Strategy for migration and asylum for 2021 to 2025, pledging to tighten and improve border controls – a key demand listed by the European Commission in mid-October for Bosnia to receive EU candidate status. 

“This long-awaited document was adopted to show goodwill ahead of the EU Council session, where BiH’s candidate status may be discussed,” Edo Kanlic, programme coordinator with the Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH, told BIRN. 

“This demonstration of political will to adopt strategic documents at the last minute is at the same time a reminder of the lack of the same will under the previous mandate of the Council of Ministers,” Kanlic added. 

The Strategy, which is fully in line with EU recommendations, contains hundreds of steps that need to be taken, including improving the comprehensive management of migration and asylum policies, as well as increasing the efficiency of state border controls. 

Bosnia plans to do this by increasing the number of border police officers as well as by increasing their technical skills and capacities. 

Bosnia also pledges to more efficiently manage illegal migration and improve the system for asylum seekers. 

It aims also to improve the integration of foreigners legally residing in the country, while strengthening coordination mechanisms in the management of migration and asylum. The country also plans to improve the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking. 

Human rights groups, however, “remind that the security aspect of migration is still overemphasised and that more work needs to be done on education and sensitization of civil servants in charge of contact and assistance to people on the move”, Kanlic said. 

The strategy is estimated to cost more than 90 million Bosnian marks, or some 45 million euros over the course of four years. For that, the country will rely also on donations.

“It is important to see how much money from the budget for 2023 will be allocated for the purpose of implementing the Strategy, and state institutions have a serious task to spend the money allocated by the EU to help BiH in migration management in a dedicated and transparent manner,” Kanlic concluded. 

According to the state Ministry of Security, more than 95,000 refugees and migrants have entered Bosnia since 2018. The country has struggled to keep control of migration.

Most of the people on the move are located in two of the cantons of Bosnia’s larger entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Una-Sana and Sarajevo cantons, where the camps are located. 

According to Kanlic, these cantons have born the biggest burden of the migrant crisis, and it is important that the new strategy helps them the most.