Taking into consideration currently available and planned accommodation in BiH, shelter capacity for the existing numbers of refugees and migrants currently living out in the open, remains insufficient. This is a critical and urgent humanitarian issue to address with the long cold and winter season approaching. The number of known arrivals in territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018 is 11,873 persons. From this number of people arrived in country 88% express their intention to seek asylum while close to 7% manage or choose to register their asylum claim (access to asylum procedure remains a challenge).
Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina with support by CRS provided small portions of support to asylum centre Delijaš and Salakovac migration centre. In a meantime, Caritas has been working on assessing the situation and finding the best action on the field. Together, National and Diocesan offices worked on creation project proposal, which will fit to needs of these people. To fit the needs and select the most vulnerable, and in a same time be Caritas. Caritas role is not just giving support, its more than that, it is a giving love to human being in need. Caritas network recognized the challenge and humanitarian crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Caritas Europa visited camps and centres
One thing is reading the situation reports, but it make difference to see with your own eyes, the challenge, suffer and whole misery on site. Our job was showing them what we already seen; let them feel what we already felt.
Our journey began in capital city Sarajevo, and meeting with national director Tomo Knežević. Director explained Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina role, procedure but also road on which Caritas passed from the beginning of year. It was long way, before we managed to have solid proposal how we will cover the gaps and needs of refugees & migrants. Marc Somers and Charel Krieps had opportunity to speak with Zlatan Savić and Daniel Bronkal from Caritas Switzerland based in Sarajevo and Gaetan Devisme representative of Caritas Belgium and Daniele Bombardi representative from Caritas Italy. This has been opportunity for them to hear the perspective of potential donors to Caritas in Bosnia and Herzegovina action. We used our time to go and see migrants & refugees living on open air in Sarajevo close to railway and bus station. Small groups living under the trees near station, sitting in front of post office using Wi-Fi provided by local “Čevabdžinica”, waiting for their life to start. They depend on volunteers who provide them at least twice a day meal. We would agree on the fact that, this is not life for human. Salakovac migration centre already existed before for regular refuges and migrants. In the centre beside Caritas delegation, UNHCR representatives visited too the centre. They work closely with IOM in providing accommodation and coordinated support to these people. In migration centre Salakovac there are many children, more than 80. We found out, 30 of them would start school on Monday; they were taught during the summer and prepared for school. Mostly families with children, single mothers IOM accommodated here. Red Cross provides meals, one hot and two dry for all. Diocesan Caritas Mostar, from the beginning is involved in distribution of non-food items and food for small children. These children needs additional food complementary for them. Zrinka Majstorović, DRR coordinator as well as responsible for migrants & refugees introduced our quests with Mirjana Penava, from BHWI (Bosnia and Herzegovina women initiative). Mirjana gave us a small tour around the centre, after our guests spoke with Anne Christine Eriksson, UNHCR regional representative for East-South Europe and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Stephanie Woldenberg, UNHCR Senior protection officer.
Situation in Una Sana Canton is the worst, and our journey led us to Cazin, Bihać and Velika Kladuša. Hotel “Sedra” in Cazin, IOM and UNHCR are using to accommodate and take care of the most vulnerable groups, women, children and families. So far, there are around 200 of them, while the capacity is 400 persons. Caritas delegation participated on coordination meeting for Una Sana Canton, and talked to several people from UNHCR, IOM and JRS. JRS is working in the afternoon in child friendly space, done by “Save the children”, after “Žene s Une” partner in the child friendly space finish their work. Coordinator Nataša for Cazin, and Vladimir Mitkovski coordinator for Una Sana Canton from IOM introduced us with latest plans and activities, while we managed only for a couple of minutes to talk to Seid Husagić from UNHCR. Hotel is nice, but no drinking water, or water for washing clothes or dishes. Water is not in use due to infection with Escherichia coli and other bacteria. UNHCR responsible for the medical support already took first steps in providing clean water. Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina staff Dijana Muzička, coordinator and Kristina Bičvić assistant together with Caritas Banja Luka Nikica Prskalo DRR coordinator and responsible for migrant situation provided one small amount of hygiene products for women and general individual use.
Next stop Bihać, student home; a ruined facility accommodates around 1600 persons. The most difficult thing for Selam Midžić, secretary from Red Cross is looking them sleeping on open or on ground. In addition, the weather is getting much more complicated and rainy days and nights cause many problems for the people sleeping on ground and inside the facility. Rain destroys blankets and sleeping pads, and it takes time for wet space to be dry again. One of the migrants approached us and gave him a warm glass of milk. Selam told us a story about the boy with hepatitis C, who was so angry when he came. Secretary didn’t know what is wrong with the boy, and why is he so sad and so angry. Translator explained that he has Hepatitis C and need a litre of milk every day. That was the problem! Now, this boy show kindness every day to the man who made available milk for him. We saw people around, taking a bath in container, sitting, walking, talking on the phone, and then we realized everyone has been in one line. The lunchtime! All people working there use to be volunteers in the beginning; they know people living there, from where they come, why they come, and what are the plans! Girl Hena recognized us from centre Delijaš, and sent many greetings to people working there; she is ok and her family too! They will go to Italy, she sent in her message.
This facility IOM have plan to renovate. Hopefully, this facility renovation will end by the time winter comes. With Selam Midžić from Red Cross Caritas Banja Luka talked about possibility establishing laundry system for people. The idea is great, said Selam Midžić. This will solve problem with clean clothes during winter. They have some machines but not even close to be enough. In addition, some migrants have scabies and they have lack of creams, and if we do laundry system, existing one use people with infection while others can use Caritas laundry system. In this way, we will prevent transmitting of disease. Again, Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina and Banja Luka Caritas donated a small contribution to food supplies to Red Cross kitchen.
Final destination on the journey is Velika Kladuša, community Trnovi. Velika Kladuša local authority provided meadow for the people seeking better life. It is just meadow, with one generator working only couple of hours per day, and people living under tents. Little bit of rain and everything is ruined, because this meadow is not suitable for tents. Local field officer Alma from IOM explained us how they just escorted two families from here to Cazin. The plan is to make the same with one family left here; women expressed deep sorrow and asked for different accommodation for the children. They are very tired! They need to rest! Toilets not maintained, and not used anymore. The quite place like there are no humans there, only one father with daughter is walking around, and few young men just came. The silence is hard and tell us the story about the hopeless situation of these people.
Our journey ended by coming in Sarajevo for final gathering. Our friends from Caritas Europa expressed their satisfaction of what they have been seen. Our project proposal is 99% in accordance with needs, but the 1% needs changes. We dis good job in planning! We thought it is the most difficult process!
We are wrong, difficult part starts now but with joy! We will do our best to give people Caritas love mixed with material support!