The Situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Bosnian border canton Una-Sana is a central place on the so-called Western Balkan Route¹  into the European Union EU. We operate in the region of Velika Kladuša, which is directly located on the border with Croatia and has become a place of humanitarian and political crisis in recent years.

 

People on the Move² have to make countless attempts to cross the border into the EU. Every day, people experience violent Push-Backs³ in which they are illegally “pushed back” from Croatia to Bosnia by the Croatian Border Guard and denied their right to apply for asylum. In the process, they are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence and the daily violation of their human rights. This border violence is a daily occurrence at the Bosnian-Croatian border: valuables are confiscated and destroyed, people are abused, forced to undress and their clothes and shoes are subsequently burned.

 

The right to asylum, physical integrity and human dignity are non-negotiable human rights and apply to all people. The EU has also made a legal commitment to these principles. However, the toleration of pushbacks and structural violence against people on the move shows that the EU deliberately tolerates and financially supports human rights violations at its borders.

 

In view of the massive build-up of European border protection, many people are involuntarily forced to stay in the Bosnian border canton of Una-Sana for weeks, months and sometimes years. Without adequate support, they find themselves in a kind of “dead end” from which there is no way out.

 

In the region of Velika Kladuša many People in the Move live in so-called Squats⁴. These are in many cases dilapidated ruins or self-built tents that are defenceless against any wind and weather conditions. In winter this means life-threatening cold at up to -20 degrees and during heat waves in summer temperatures of up to 40 degrees. Most squats do not have access to clean drinking water, sanitation and waste disposal, resulting in disease and conflict with local residents. Despite the precarious living conditions, People on the Move choose to live more self-determined lives in squats, rather than in state-funded camp structures.

OUR WORK

We demand freedom of movement, safe escape routes and an end to all forms of violence and injustice perpetrated by the EU migration regime. We want to support People on the Move directly and in solidarity and document the discrimination and systematic border violence and make it publicly visible! With our work we want to improve the living conditions of People on the Move in the Bosnian border canton of Una-Sana in the region of Velika Kladuša , support people in meeting their basic needs and increase their security and autonomy.

 

We work closely with local and international support structures and aim to involve the local population in our work!

WOOD & STOVE PROGRAMME

Blindspots welds and distributes mobile stoves, installs fixed stoves and distributes firewood to People on the Move in Squats. This enables the residents of the squats to provide themselves with food and protect themselves from the cold in winter.

CONSTRUCTION AND REHABILITATION WORK IN SQUATS

Blindspots carries out construction work in squats, such as installing doors, windows and solar panels. This insulates spaces and ensures a minimum of privacy.

WASH STRUCTURES

Blindspots installs Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) structures such as temporary showers and toilets in squats, provides access to clean drinking water and provides logistics for waste disposal. This helps to reduce disease and conflicts with local residents.

PROVISION OF FREE AND INDEPENDENT LEGAL INFORMATION

Blindspots offers free and independent legal information sessions for People on the Move in cooperation with the Refugee Law Clinic Germany umbrella organisation in the project “Refugee Right Access”.

DOCUMENTATION OF BORDER AND INTERNAL VIOLENCE

Blindspots is a member of the Border Violence Monitoring Network. Through qualitative interviews with People on the Move, testimonies on border violence and internal violence are documented and collected in the network’s database.

The short film “NEAR OUR BORDER” by Martina Troxler and Pina Miggelbrink from Blindspots focuses on the systematic violent and illegal pushbacks of the Croatian Border Guard and gives an insight into the living situation of People on the Move and the local population in the Bosnian-Croatian border area.

Our Partners

No Name Kitchen sees itself as an independent movement working along the Balkan and Mediterranean routes to provide humanitarian aid and political action for people on the move.

Medical Volunteers International meet the primary health and medical needs of people on the move and people in need in Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Rahma is a non-profit humanitarian organisation that provides food and clothing to people in difficult living situations in and around Velika Kladuša (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) is an independent network of non-governmental organisations and associations based mainly in the Balkan regions and Greece. It documents human rights violations at the external borders of the European Union and works to end violence against people on the move.

Wir packen’s an is a non-profit association from Berlin-Brandenburg that brings direct help to people in need who are fleeing at the EU’s external borders.

The frachcollective sees itself as a self-managed grassroots collective that aims to provide access to basic needs such as food, sanitation and medical care for people on the move.

Collective Aid is an independent, volunteer-run organisation that addresses the ever-changing needs of refugees and migrants across Europe.

ComPass Community Center

The ComPass 071 Sarajevo and ComPass 077 Bihać Community Centres support people in need who live locally or are in transit.

The Refugee Law Clinic e.V. is a student-run association that provides free and and independent legal advice for people on the move and migrants.

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  4. volunteer work

GLOSSARY:

The Balkan Route is the route from West Asia to the EU. For centuries, this route has been used for the transfer of trade and goods, as a travel route – and also by people on the move. The Balkan route as a “flight corridor” therefore already existed before the migration movements of 2015 and the associated media attention. Due to political efforts by individual states and the EU, especially the stronger controls and militarisation of borders, the route is shifting dynamically. People fleeing are repeatedly forced to choose other routes to the EU. Despite repression, violence and border controls, people continue to try to reach the EU via the Balkan route. Closing the border to refugees is practically impossible, but exposes them to an extremely high risk of violence.

 

https://balkanbruecke.org/entwicklung-der-balkanroute/
https://www.borderviolence.eu/background/

The term “People on the Move” tries to avoid the categorisation of people as “refugees” or “migrants” as a homogenous mass. Instead, it is intended to make clear that these are people and individual persons.

 

https://balkanbrueckesupports.org/erklaer-abc-o/
https://www.unhcr.org/admin/hcspeeches/48873def4/people-move-challenges-displacement-21st-century-international-rescue-committee.html

The term “pushback” refers to state measures in violation of international law, in which fleeing and migrating people are “pushed back” – usually immediately after crossing the border – without the possibility to apply for asylum or to have their legality reviewed by the courts. During these systematic attacks by representatives of the European Border Guard, physical, psychological and sexual violence is threatened and carried out. Although not all pushbacks involve physical violence, all pushbacks are a form of violence that violates international law.

 

https://www.ecchr.eu/glossar/push-back/

Squats are places where people on the move find makeshift shelter away from government camp structures. These are typically abandoned houses, empty factory buildings or tents made of tarpaulins. Due to the civil war in the 1990s and the resulting migration abroad, these abandoned places can be found everywhere in the Bosnian border canton of Una-Sana.

 

https://balkanbruecke.org/folgen-der-abschottungspolitik/
https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/31073/we-live-like-animals-migrants-stuck-in-bosnia-say