People from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria rest in a park in Sarajevo, Bosnia, 10 May 2018. Migrants and refugees have set up a camp there, highlighting the recent rise in people using Bosnia as a transit route. EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR
Official data from Bosnian government ministries shows that 12 migrants or refugees lost their lives in the country last year.
The data were gathered from the interior ministries of Bosnia’s two entities, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, RS, and the mainly Bosniak and Croatian Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is not clear if that is the final number, as the interior ministries in each entity only keep data on deaths where they suspect violence was the cause.
Border police have data on bodies of people transported back to “countries of high migration risk”, referring to those states from where most migrants and refugees are coming.
“In 2018, we had four cases; namely two transported to Pakistan and one to Jordan and one to Morocco,” Bosnian Border Police told BIRN.
Una Sana Canton recorded four migrant or refugee deaths. One of ten units in the Federation entity, in northwest Bosnia, it is where most migrants and refugees are based, as it lies closest to EU-member Croatia.
“In two cases, natural deaths were confirmed, one case concerned drowning and one person was killed,” the prosecutor’s office of Una Sana Canton told BIRN.
No Name Kitchen, an NGO that assists migrants and refugees, said it was concerned over the fate of one young Moroccan who they fear is lost in Bosnia or Serbia.
“He went to cross the border to Croatia from Republika Srpska in Bosnia and got pushed back into Serbia. As he wanted to cross back into Bosnia, he went to cross the [border] Drina river, and that was the last news we have of him,” No Name Kitchen told BIRN.
His fate remains unknown, as local police could not confirm any details about him.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, told BIRN it does not possess data on migrants and refugees who died in Bosnia but recalled its recently published report on their plight, Desperate Journeys.
The report notes an estimated 2,275 people perished crossing the Mediterranean in 2018 – an average of six deaths every day, as more and more people attempted the perilous sea crossing to Europe.
Just over 20,000 migrants and refugees were registered as having entered Bosnia during 2018, according to the country’s Service for Foreign Affairs.
But the exact number of those still in Bosnia is hard to confirm, as many have clearly moved on.
Latest information from Bosnia’s Council of Ministers, or government, says only 3,900 remain. That means most of those who declared an intention to claim asylum in Bosnia have in fact left the country.
Those who stayed and are registered in Bosnia have been placed in seven locations: in Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihac, Cazin and Velika Kladusa. Most are in Bihac.
Most of them are taking the new so-called “Balkan route” to Western Europe, which passes through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia.
The former route was closed off after Hungary built a fence to stop migrants and refugees from entering the country from Serbia, and then moving on to Austria.