The coming winter is intensifying. The snow and minus temperatures are making lives of thousands of refugees even more difficult, as well as the work and health of humanitarian workers.
Since 2018, Bosnia has become the busiest migration travel route in western Balkans. Over 65 000 people have been registered upon entry into the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina since January 2018 until June 2020. The transit through Bulgaria, Norther Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia, ends in B&H. Due to bad weather conditions and the strictness of the EU Croatian Border Police, travel for the majority of refugees ends on the border with Croatia. Asylum centers in B&H are undercapacitated and there is no room for everyone; that’s why a large number of refugees are forced to live outside of camps, in forests and abandoned buildings. That also means a large number of refugees has very limited access to humanitarian aid.
There are 6 refugee camps in Bosnia & Herzegovina: two in Sarajevo, camp Blažuj (3129) and camp Ušivak (1098), and four camps in the Una-Sana canton in northwestern Bosnia, Miral (1078), Lipa (1287), Boriči (373), and Bira (1500).
It is important to underline that there are over 200 informal locations where refugees, who don’t have access to camps, are living. Most of those refugees are surviving thanks to donations that locals provide, but those are very small amounts of food. Evangelical Relief Agency (ERA), in cooperation with the Red Cross in Bihać is implementing the project “Food for Life”. Red Cross and ERA are distributing food packets to refugees on a daily basis. Thanks to that project, over 1000 people will have access to food during December.
International non-government organizations and the EU Commissions are appealing to the Una-Sana government to find a solution and offer a new location where refugees could be quickly and safely accommodated, in order to protect their lives. NGOs have several times also reported on the numerous pushbacks and violence on the borders of Croatia and Bosnia. The last report on violence on the borders was published by DRC in the German newspaper ‘Der Spiegel’.
The Evangelical Relief Agency and Croatian Baptist Aid, who are working together in refugee camps in Bosnia, agree that it is a humanitarian imperative to respect the dignity and human rights of every person, and that every person has the right to humanitarian aid. That is why they are continuing to actively advocate for the rights of refugees, and work to find a lasting solution to the problem of accommodation and access to food and NFI.
left: Toma Magda, Croatian Baptist Aid Director
Toma Magda, CBAid Director said, “Our mission is to meet these people and serve them very concretely. We want to be a source of hope for them through our humanitarian activity and support. We want to do what we can to protect them from the harsh weather conditions, as well as protect them from being labeled as a source of threat. Man is not an enemy to man; they become enemies under faulty governing systems. If we want to see Christ and recognize him in this situation, we need to experience a shift in perspective and redefine our understanding of what the Church is and what it is called to do.”
The Evangelical Relief Agency and CBAid continue to provide support and aid to refugees in B&H. Besides the food distribution project, they are securing WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) containers, heating generators, and are distributing NFI according to their possibilities.
Elvis Džafić, General Secretary of the Evangelical Relief Agency said, “We are grateful that there is an opportunity for this kind of service, which we recognize and which we are deeply involved in. We want our humanitarian action to contribute to society, to be a witness of a more just treatment of all people, and especially those most vulnerable, which are currently the refugees. Our desire is to motivate Evangelical believers to get more involved, to recognize when human rights are being violated, to be active in advocacy and fight for human and religious rights for all human beings. Whatever we decide (not) to do, will determine our future. As a humanitarian worker and Evangelical believer, I believe I have a lot to offer to society in which I live, in order to make it better and more just.”
Please support the Evangelical Relief Agency
The best way to stay in touch with the work of the Evangelical Relief Agency amongst refugees in Bosnia & Herzegovina is to join the Facebook group “ESR – Evangelical Solidarity with Refugees”. The Facebook group raises awareness and spreads information about the Evangelical response to the refugee crisis.
If you want to support the Evangelical Relief Agency by donations, please find below the banking details. Every donor will be provided with a financial report and field stories.