Asylum-seekers cultivate new lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina
09 February 2022
The road to full integration for asylum-seekers in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be a long one, but UNHCR is providing support.
Despite the so-called Balkan route closure in 2016, refugees and migrants continue to move through Bosnia and Herzegovina. Out of more than 85,000 refugees, asylum–seekers, and migrants who have passed through the country since early 2018, only a tiny percentage remained in the country to claim asylum while most of them try to reach western Europe.
Adel is one of those who wanted to seek protection in BiH and see their future in BiH. He came to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018 with his son Sajad (12) after he was forced to flee Iran.
He settled in a village near the City of Bihać, where local people offered him the opportunity to start a new life, which he welcomed.
He drew on his knowledge as an agronomist to plant corn, onions, and gherkins, raise poultry and keep bees on the patch of rent-free land the villagers had offered. His aim now is to establish a thriving business that will employ local people.
In addition to tending to his land, he offers his language and his competencies to organizations providing support in reception centers in Una-Sana Canton. In reception centres he works as a cultural mediator, helping his compatriots understand the asylum process in BiH through his own experience and improve their chances of becoming productive members of society if they are granted international protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Adel was granted refugee status in December 2021, after 28 months of the asylum procedures.
Currently, there are about a hundred people holding refugee or subsidiary protection status in Bosnia and Herzegovina – some since the end of the nineties. All of them enjoy access to education, health care, social welfare, and labour market under the same conditions as nationals. Refugees can naturalize after five years stay in the country.
However, there is no systemic support for refugees to navigate through the complex administrative structure of the country. There is an insufficient proactive approach in connecting them with the labour market or development of skills, while resources to facilitate full inclusion in BiH society are lacking.
That is why UNHCR works closely with the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees, and with civil society and refugees to draft a bylaw for better integration. Together with our partner, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we implement integration projects that have already supported the employment of persons under international protection in BiH.
Our main goal is to provide access to solutions and to help them address daily challenges, such as learning the local language, support in recognition of diplomas, development of skills, legal aid, psychosocial support, and other services and assist them to become active members of their new communities.