The UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina is concerned by violent pushback of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees
The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina is calling for urgent action to end violent pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, including minors, along the Croatian border with BiH.
On 2nd April 2021, UN and NGO teams encountered a group of 50 men walking close to the official border crossing with Croatia in the direction of the city of Bihac, Una-Sana Canton. The men were visibly exhausted, in need of clothes and shoes, and had wounds on their bodies. UN emergency teams provided food, clothing, shoes and hygiene items, and in response to their injuries NGO medical teams provided urgent medical assistance to 25 of them.
The men described that while crossing the border, they had been deprived of their belongings, including their mobile phones and money, and been beaten with wooden sticks while forcibly returned to the territory of BiH.
In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has seen a significant increase in mixed migration movements, with over 70,000 people having entered the country since 2017, and with over 4,000 people currently hosted in official reception facilities and an estimated 1700 persons residing outside of these facilities. In violation of the prohibition of collective expulsion, pushbacks of migrants exiting Bosnia and Herzegovina have been regularly reported, including of families with children. In 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants expressed deep concern with ‘the repeated and ongoing disproportionate use of force against migrants in pushback operations.’
Pushbacks and collective expulsions are prohibited under international and EU law, and the UN condemns in the strongest terms the use of violence against migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees at any border. We urge the concerned States to investigate the incident that took place on the 2nd of April and for all perpetrators to be appropriately sanctioned.
This alarming and recurrent situation highlights the need to improve migration and asylum policy and governance and implement humane and integrated rights-based practices, not least during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN is supporting BiH and partners towards this goal.