UN Country Team in BiH - Joint Statement
- The United Nations in BiH urges authorities in Una Sana Canton not to restrict the freedom of movement of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees and for State authorities to immediately identify a viable new location for migrant reception and accommodation
On 13 November 2019, the Operational Group for Resolving the Migration Crisis in Una Sana Canton took the decision to introduce a lockdown of the reception centres Bira in Bihać and Miral in Velika Kladuša.
Such measures will prohibit migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, including unaccompanied children, from entering or leaving the two centres, unless doing so to attempt crossing the border into Croatia.
The UN fully recognizes the disproportionate burden borne by Una Sana Canton authorities and local communities affected by the high number of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees without adequate means or solutions.
Notwithstanding, the UN reminds the authorities that the two centres in question were established in coordination with the Ministry of Security and are recognized as formal Temporary Reception Centres by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina [Official Gazette 28/19, VM 46/19, 11 March 2019].
According to Bosnia and Herzegovina Law on Asylum (2016) persons who have expressed an intention to apply for asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina have the legal right to stay in the country including full freedom of movement.
The right to freedom of movement is also enshrined in international human rights and refugee law applicable in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees enjoy the right to be free from arbitrary restrictions on liberty. Restriction of freedom of movement of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees have to be based on an individual assessment and not in a collective manner as the measure implies. The effects of keeping persons in detention, as witnessed during previously enforced lockdowns of the Bira reception centre include acute stress, anxiety and fear; and high tensions that escalate to violence.
In light of the above, the UN strongly urges the authorities not to implement the decision to restrict the freedom of movement of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Una Sana Canton.
Furthermore, according to the Minister of Interior of Una Sana Canton, the Vučjak site will remain as the only location to which apprehended migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Una Sana Canton will be placed, until a new reception centre outside of the Canton will be established.
The UN reiterates its grave concerns over the inhumane and now rapidly deteriorating conditions of the Vučjak site, highlighted by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr Felipe Gonzalez, in his end-of-visit statement on 1 October 2019, in the UNCT Joint Statement on 14 June 2019 and again on 16 October 2019.
The UN implores State authorities to immediately identify and make available new locations, preferably outside of Una Sana Canton. The UN reiterates its commitment to support authorities in the operationalization of new accommodation sites.