The main objective of the UNHCR is to support BiH authorities in fulfilling their role in providing international protection for asylum seekers and refugees in BiH, with a particular focus on the reception of vulnerable categories, as well as to support the authorities in establishing a sustainable system to ensure that all children in BiH are registered at birth and that people at risk of statelessness are identified and referred to appropriate services.
UNHCR also assist the authorities at various levels in addressing the remaining needs of internally displaced people and returnees, including by reinforcing their data management capacities and adopting a well-targeted assistance methodology. Achieving durable solutions for returnees and IDPs means enabling them to live their lives in peace and dignity, whether in their place of displacement, in their former place of residence or in yet another place.
Asylum-Seekers and Refugees
- UNHCR is a longstanding partner of the Ministry of Security’s Sector for Asylum, and the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees on issues related to asylum and international protection in BiH.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced a substantial increase in mixed movement arrivals in 2018 (over 24,000), 2019 (over 29,000) and until the end of December 2020 (over 15,000) as compared to 2017 with only 755. This has both overwhelmed reception capacity dedicated for asylum-seekers and presented challenges to the integrity of the asylum system, as many of the irregular arrivals to BiH are planning their onward movement towards destinations in Western Europe and the EU. One key concern is the high percentage of overall arrivals who may move onward and who express intention to seek asylum with the Service for Foreigners Affairs thus heavily burdening the asylum system. Obtaining attestation on expressed intention to seek asylum remains the entry point to the asylum system as well as a requirement for accommodation in all official reception centres.
- Given the need to support the BiH authorities to respond to international protection needs within this new mixed and onward movement context, UNHCR strengthened support for identification and access to the asylum procedure and rights for persons seeking international protection in BiH within this new operational context.
- UNHCR continues to support free legal aid, psychosocial support, community-based-protection and protection mainstreaming activities inside and outside reception centres throughout BiH (in partnership with VP BiH, BHWI and DRC).
- In support of its core international protection mandate, UNHCR plays a leading role in the UN and interagency response, working closely with IOM and other actors, both in reception centres and urban locations, supporting overall coordination, including of protection (in support of referral pathways for asylum-seekers and vulnerable individuals) as well as for information management (including harmonization of tools to facilitate a coordinated protection response).
- UNHCR supports the Ministry of Security’s Sector for Asylum and the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees to hire expert and support staff, and with the management of their respective reception centres. UNHCR also supports and works closely with the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, Border Police, and the judiciary.
- UNHCR supports efforts by partner organisations to mitigate the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as directly support a number of recognised refugees, persons under subsidiary protection and asylum-seekers in private accommodation with emergency food and hygienic parcels as well support with equipment access to online schooling for their children.
Persons Lacking Proof of Nationality and at Risk of Statelessness
- UNHCR’s work to assist persons lacking proof of nationality and those identified as stateless persons focus on supporting authorities at the State and local levels to strengthen mechanisms which will ensure identification, prevention, reduction and protection of persons at risk of statelessness or stateless persons. UNHCR supports birth registration and issuance of nationality documents through the work of partner Vasa Prava BiH, until these persons are fully supported by local free legal aid offices where they exist and to ensure that individuals are assisted to register their birth and nationality in municipal books.
- UNHCR works closely with the BiH authorities to address statelessness and its risk , as well as to adopt a statelessness determination procedure. Furthermore, UNHCR supports the BiH authorities in the accomplishment of the commitments made by their delegation at the High-Level Segment to end statelessness by 2024. within the UNHCR Global Action Plan.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Returnees and Refugees from the former Yugoslavia
- UNHCR advocates and works with authorities at all levels, led by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees (MHRR), operational partners and civil society to support the BiH in resolving the remaining priority problems of displacement under the Revised Strategy for Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA). This work includes assistance for the selection of vulnerable beneficiaries for major housing and socio-economic projects.
- In support of this goal, UNHCR supports the work of Vasa Prava BiH, a free legal aid NGO which provides support to vulnerable IDPs and returnees in accessing their rights and works in close cooperation with local free legal aid providers and civil society actors.
- Along with active participation in the work of the Consultative Working Group for the implementation of the Revised Strategy of Annex VII, UNHCR monitors the work of the State Coordination Team entrusted by the BiH Council of Ministers to coordinate and monitor implementation of the key aspects of the Annex VII of the DPA;
- One key area of advocacy and focus is supporting the sustainability of local integration and return. This includes, among other things: access to employment, social welfare, social housing, health care, pensions, security, housing and infrastructure, including electricity, water, and access to roads. UNHCR supports free legal aid to individuals and supports the coordinated efforts of key stakeholders at the State, Entity/Brčko district BiH and local levels. Support provided by UNHCR and OSCE to the national authorities at different levels in adoption of the legislation regulating non-profit social housing will improve sustainability of durable solutions and significantly upgrade housing and integration security for IDPs, returnees and refugees.
- The office remains engaged in the Regional Housing Programme, which provides reconstruction assistance and social housing, and is involved in other durable solutions projects. UNHCR also continues to monitor projects designed to close collective centres and provide new improved living conditions to vulnerable IDPs and returnees, facilitating solutions either in their place of origin or in their place of displacement. UNHCR works to promote adoption by national actors of a systematic and data-driven, evidence-based selection methodology for provision of assistance to IDPs and returnees.
- Together with the OSCE and OHR, UNHCR observes the work of the Commission for IDPs and Refugees, a state level body in charge of approving reconstruction and return related programmes.