International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Illegal migration raises concerns in Bosnia's northwest, causes spat with EU

May 22, 2020

Una-Sana Canton (USK) will not serve as a courtyard for solving the issue of migrations in this part of Europe, mayors of Bosnia's northwestern region said on Friday, stressing that they would be taking care of the interests and safety of the canton's citizens.

“We won't engage in some correspondence but will be acting in line with constitutional competencies and take care of the interest and safety of our citizens,” USK prime minister Mustafa Ruznic said, noting that migrant camps Miral and Bira, located in urban zones in privately owned facilities, will have to close down.

Suhret Fazlic, the mayor of Bihac, the canton's administrative center, said the importance of the European Union and international organizations was important but that everyone must act professionally and resume the cooperation.

“Also, I must warn all actors in the process that I won't hesitate to open 'new Vucjak camps' if Bihac gets again exposed to unbearable pressure of migrants and is left to deal with it alone,” said Fazlic, referring to the infamous Vucjak camp that was closed down last year mostly under the pressure of international organizations who found it inadequate for migrants.

But, the correspondence with the European Union got heated after a letter that EU ambassador in Bosnia Johann Sattler addressed to the country's Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic and USK premier Ruznic, expressing concern over the transport of migrants to the new camp outside Bihac. 

Sattler asked the ministers to stop the transport of migrants from the Bira center to the new camp Lipa, particularly the unaccompanied minors, noting that this camp was set up for adult men only. He expressed worries over respect for the rule of law and human rights in the migration management by local authorities, calling the recent actions “unacceptable.”

“Temporary centre 'Lipa' was set up as a response to the needs stemming from an extraordinary situation caused by COVID-19 crisis, and its capacities have been filled. However, the USK police keep bringing migrants to the site without any coordination with our implementing partners. Everything said was contrary to the agreements between the USK authorities and implementing partners and the EU at the moment of formation of the Lipa centre,” said the letter published by local media.

The note sparked the USK prime minister's reaction who said he was saddened by “Sattler's false and malicious accusations.”

Neither the USK Government nor any other authority has banned the transport of minors to adequate centers, moreover, the USK did everything to protect them as a particularly sensitive category, said Ruznic.

“The comment of His Excellency about the lack of coordinated activities within the migrant crisis management with partners from EU is completely vague since we know that the formation of the task force for coordination of the activities and control of the migrant crisis in the USK is continuously convening at least once a week and that the representatives of the IOM and the UNHCR are regularly invited and attend those meetings,” he said.

“We did not hear about the concern of His Excellency over so drastic threat to the lives, health and property of the USK citizens. Does His Excellency think that the USK citizens should not enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms in their own land and expect adequate protection of the state,?”, the USK prime minister asked in response to Sattler's letter.

In addition, he asked if this was an attempt to “displace the local population using the migration of these distressed and unhappy people.”

“The authorities and citizens of the USK are particularly interested in what did His Excellency do about the implementation of the European Commission's conclusion regarding the migrant crisis, which refers to the obligation of a balanced accommodation of illegal migrants on the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and not only in the USK, as it used to be, as well as conclusion that all migrant centers set up in the privately-owned facilities must be closed and organized at locations owned by the state,” said Ruznic.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a435761/Illegal-migration-raises-concerns-in-Bosnia-s-northwest-causes-spat-with-EU.html

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