Approximately 2,700–3,000 asylum seekers and migrants are currently residing outside of formal accommodation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This number includes people affected by the closures of Bira camp in Bihać (Una-Sana canton) and Lipa camp, 20km away (UNHCR 31/12/2020; UN 05/01/2021). Most of the people not staying in formal accommodation are located in Una-Sana canton, on the border with Croatia. It hosts three of the seven open reception centres in the country (DRC 12/10/2020; UNHCR accessed 19/01/2020). Migrants wait in Una-Sana before attempting to cross the border into Croatia, thereby entering the EU (Euronews 20/01/2021). Migrants not in formal accommodation are particularly vulnerable to cold weather conditions as they can lack adequate shelter and clothing. The average daily temperature during the month of January in Bihać is typically between -2°C and 5°C (Weather Spark accessed 19/01/2021).
Since 2016 – following the closure of the migrant route through Serbia and Hungary – Bosnia and Herzegovina has been experiencing mixed migration flows of people transiting through the country seeking to reach the EU (Human Rights Watch 11/12/2018). The number of migrants entering Bosnia and Herzegovina increased dramatically in 2018, when 24,000 migrants entered the country, and continued to rise in 2019, with 29,000 reported arrivals (UNHCR 31/12/2018; UNHCR 31/12/2019). 16,150 irregular arrivals were reported in 2020 (UNHCR 31/12/2020).
An increase in humanitarian needs, particularly shelter and non-food items (NFIs), during the winter is a yearly problem, typically resolved by temporary stopgap solutions (Refugee Rights Europe et al. 12/01/2021). Bosnia and Herzegovina’s federal structure requires consensus at various political levels, which can lead to local and cantonal-level officials blocking national decisions (Euronews 31/12/2020; Reuters 24/12/2020). Lack of coordination and agreement between the different levels of authority hampers the implementation of a long-term solution to address the humanitarian needs of migrants and asylum seekers (ECRE 08/01/2021).