Protection of minor migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina a priority

Protection of minor migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina a priority
According to official information from the BiH Service for Foreigners' Affairs, more than 500 children are among about 20 000 migrants who are still trying to reach EU countries via the BiH - Croatia border in the western part of the country (BiH).

The greatest concern lies with the fact that 60 out of the 500 are unattended.

"We are aware of the risk that these children are exposed to threats of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and other forms of violence more than other kids. That is why we insist on respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides for the equal treatment and protection of children regardless of their status, being a migrant is a precondition for their protection", said BiH Human Rights and Refugees' Minister, Semiha Borovac.

She warned that, so far, 19 313 migrants have expressed their intention to apply for asylum in BiH, with 1 310 asylum applications already filed. Among them, as Borovac said, are 306 minors registered, five of them unaccompanied.

All of the unaccompanied/separated migrant children are accommodated in in hotels in Bihać, near the Croatian border that have been turned into migrant centres. Now in Bihać there are about 190 kids with their parents and 102 more hosted at a centre situated in Salakovac, near Mostar.

Minister Borovac met with authorities in Una-Sana Canton, on the far west of BiH, to identify the outstanding problems and discuss possible solutions to the migrant crisis.

Among the main conclusions the meeting's participants have reached is that the state of public health forms a security issue, and must be prioritised in the governmental action plan. The ultimate goal is to ensure the quality of the health care offered to migrants, as well as to the local population.

Furthermore, it was stressed that it is necessary to find additional shelters or centres for where migrants could be hosted as well as a registration method that would allow authorities to obtain precise data about sensitive categories, like children.

The attendees agreed that the Salakovac Centre could be a good model for all other immigration centres regarding the organisation and the reception system. Aside from the decent accommodation conditions, migrants in Salakovac are offered daily meals and enjoy basic medical care. To give tangible examples, more than 30 kids were vaccinated while, thanks to activities that belong to the so-called 'kids' corner' programme, minors follow a non-formal educational scheme.

The European Union will help the country's efforts with more than 7.2 million euros in grants. The aim is to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in the area of migration and border management.

"The project aims at further strengthening the country’s migration management, asylum, border control and surveillance capacities. It will also build on the existing support in the distribution of food and provision of emergency shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene services, protection, as well as other basic necessities to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina", read the EU press release.

It is added that shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure will be put in place or expanded in order to provide winterised, secure and dignified accommodation, protecting families with children and other vulnerable individuals from the cold weather.

The funds have been provided via an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) special measure and will be distributed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in partnership with UNHCR and UNICEF.... / IBNA

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