We, at RBB often receive distress calls from people on the move in Bosnia & Herzegovina and we work remotely to connect them with local support services.
In October 2019, Ruhi, with volunteer Natalie Kling, travelled to Bosnia & Herzegovina and across the country’s migration hotspots: Tuzla, Ključ, Sarajevo and Bihać. It was apparent that people were travelling from Greece to Italy and then into Western Europe to seek asylum, crossing countries such as Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.
People forced to embark on this journey are those that have been rejected on their asylum claims in Greece facing detention or deportation. They are people who are burdened by the uncertain nature of their asylum cases, riddled with mental health issues and PTSD from their traumatic journey’s, forced into camps or on the streets in Greece, that they are forced to leave.
People are arriving to the country in poor condition, passing countries and many, including children, have walked for weeks. They are hungry, exhausted, ill, cold, beaten by police, robbed by thieves and severely traumatised by their journeys.
It is estimated over 25,000 people had passed Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2019, on this route, however, the figures are estimated as many people are unregistered, missing, or unaccounted for.
We were asked by colleagues on the ground to to support a camp in Vučjak with winter aid. This was the first winter for this camp at the Bosnia & Herzegovina – Croatian border, which opened in the middle of 2019. It was based in the town’s former garbage dump reported to have hazardous gases and explosives. The camp is up a mountain and 2 hours to walk in the summer to the nearest town for the able bodied, with an elevation of 1642 metres where it can snow up to 2 metres high in winter.
At the time there were almost 750 people stuck there including unaccompanied minors as young as 12 years old as they tried to travel on. Scabies and infections are rife due to the poor camp conditions and a lack of washing facilities and medical care. Nearby woods had minefields and it was once reported that a bear came into the camp injuring people. People presented gashes and infected wounds with bloodied legs and feet, poor food, a lack of clothes and shoes. Here people lived in tents without heating, lights, and electricity on hard, cold ground.
We were able to raise funds, buy aid on the ground and distribute 750 pairs of winter shoes and socks for the people in this camp in conjunction with a partner organisation. In addition:
- We also helped a team of independent volunteers make 147 food packs of easy food items that did not need cooking which they then distributed to squats, abandoned buildings and those living outside in Bihać.
- We bought firewood and materials to build a shelter at a tertiary road side camp in Ključ and paid for six months rent for mobile toilets.
- After our visit, we also fundraised to buy washing machines for a centre in Tuzla, for those sleeping outside there.
Although Vučjak camp was closed soon after we were there, there are other camps and hotspots for displaced travelling people via Bosnia & Herzegovina and the condition for people on the move continue to be poor. We continue to follow the situation for people displaced in Bosnia & Herzegovina, raising awareness on their situation.