Bosnia-Herzegovina is a small country with 4.5 million inhabitants, which borders Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. Bosnia-Herzegovina became independent in 1992 following the signing of the Dayton peace accords (1995) which put an end to the war between Bosnia and Serbia. Bosnia is comprised of two parts : the Republika Spreska (Serbian Republic of Bosnia) and the Federation. The country also has one region, the Brčko district, which has been placed under an international mandate. This decentralised organisation is not conducive to rapid decision-making. With the expansion of the EU to the east and the heightening of control measures at the Union’s borders, Bosnia has become a transit zone for migrants who wish to reach the EU.
Legislation on immigration and asylum
The EU is putting pressure on those western Balkan countries which hope to join the EU to adopt the Union’s standards with regard to immigration and asylum. Reglementary and legal measures relating to these issues are decided upon at a national level through the Ministry of Security.
It was only recently, in 2003, that legislation on immigration and asylum was passed under the title « Law on Movement and Stay of Aliens (LMSAA) ».
With regard to legislation on the entry and stay of migrants, measures are supposed to be identical to those existing in EU states. However, it should be noted that a maximum length of detention has not yet been established in law.
In 2006, according to the IOM (International Organisation for Migration), the immigration department of the Ministry of Security granted residence permits to 5427 people.
Bosnia is a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees.
The Ministry of Security has been responsible for the implementation of asylum law since 2004, succeeding the HCR which had been responsible until that time. In 2005, the law was amended in order to bring it in line with EU law in aspects such as the setting up of an accelerated claims procedure and an appeals commission, as well as the possibility for people detained in the « Immigration Centre » to make an asylum claim.
In June 2006, according to the HCR, there were 243 recognised refugees in Bosnia. Refugees have the right to work and to access education and healthcare.
In Rakovica (Sarajevo), there is a centre for asylum seekers for which the Ministry of Security is responsible. According to the HCR and the Helsinki Committee of Bosnia, living conditions in the centre are very difficult : asylum seekers receive little food and must pay for medicines themselves.
The detention centre at Lukavica
In Sarajevo, there is also a detention centre for irregular migrants, which comes under the remit of the Ministry of Security : The Lukavica Centre. The centre is entitled « Immigration Centre for Aliens » and was created in May 2008, with a capacity of 40 detainees of both genders. No child is known to have been detained as yet. The main countries of origin of detainees are Turkey, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Pakistan, China and Cameroon.
The situation regarding detention in Bosnia is as follows :
At present, there is no legally-established maximum detention period. There is a medical centre on-site which detainees can access by making a request to the authorities. A list of internal house rules has been established. There is a telephone which detainees may use if they have the means to purchase a telephone card. They may receive calls in the security booth where the guards are based. Weekly visits of up to 1 hour are authorised, but it is not known who is authorised to make visits. The only association which accesses the centre (Vaša Prava) is concerned only with the asylum seekers also present due to the lack of available places in the Rakovica centre.
According to our information, it seems that there is currently no way out of detention despite the law establishing the possibility to appeal detention up to three days after the decision has been taken.
A second building with a capacity of 100 is under construction, entirely financed by the EU, and was scheduled to open in May 2009. This building is designed to house women and children, the latter thus making their first official appearance in the detention centres of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After signing bilateral readmission agreements with the member states of the EU, Bosnia signed a global readmission agreement with the EU in 2007. This agreement came into force in January 2008, and applies equally to Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia and Montenegro.
Bosnia has also signed agreements with its neighbours : Croatia in 2004, and Serbia in 2007. It is currently negotiating a similar agreement with Macedonia. These bilateral agreements come as a response to the pressure placed on the western Balkan states by the European Union, which is also negotiating a similar agreement with Turkey.
The « National Integrated Border Management Strategy for BiH » is a strategy adpoted in July 2005, whose primary aims are the coordination and cooperation of all agencies and control bodies working along Bosnia-Herzegovina’s borders. The SBS (State Border Service) is the governing body responsible for border control, and its task is to oversee the application of the country’s immigration and asylum law at its borders.
IOM reports on Bosnia :
The law on immigration and asylum :
The law on border control :
The readmission agreement between the EU and Bosnia-Herzegovina:
Lola Schulmann – 2009
Translated by Eleanor Staniforth - 2011