On April 23, the security minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) proposed to forcibly deport migrants out of the country in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak. The initiative follows a decision on April 16 by the Council of Ministers of BiH on the Restriction of Movement and Stay of Foreigners challenged by the Legal Aid Network Vaša prava BiH.

BiH security minister Fahrudin Radncic argues that refugees and migrants pose an economic burden during the pandemic as well as a security threat. The minister announced the submission of a legislative proposal to the parliament without indicating the precise timing. The minister’s plans include the detention of migrants without passports or other forms of official identification, instead of accommodating them in migrant and refugee camps. Under the proposed new law, people could be detained for one to five years to establish their identity.

In October 2019, BiH received an additional €2 million in humanitarian aid for refugees and migrants from the EU, bringing the total to €5.8 million of EU humanitarian assistance since 2018. In addition, BiH receives a considerable amount of money under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) to support the “management of migration flows”. Security minister Radncic said that the EU money should rather fund the deportation of migrants instead of covering their stay in BiH. He ordered the Bosnian Service for Foreigners’ Affairs (SFA) to compile a list of estimated 9,000 to 10,000 illegal migrants to be deported, excluding refugees from Syria.

Hundreds of migrants and refugees, who have been camping in the Vucjak camp site by Bihac, close to the Croatian border, have been transferred to a nearby IOM emergency tent camp, which was set up in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak. The Vucjak camp hosts up to 1,500 people, many trying to enter Croatia to seek asylum in the EU. However, consistent and widespread violent push-backs by the Croatian authorities have been reported.

The EU and Western Balkan leaders will have a video conference on May 06, 2020.

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Photo: (CC) bastian walthierer, March 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.