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UN expert urges Bosnia and Herzegovina to assume State responsibility and respect migrant rights

SARAJEVO (2 October 2019) – A UN human rights expert has praised the generosity extended to migrants by citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina – themselves victims of a brutal war 24 years ago – but said a fragmented political structure was undermining the rights of migrants in the country.

"It is remarkable that ordinary citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina generously have distributed food, clothes and goods to migrants. Having experienced an atrocious war, people relate themselves to the plight of migrants," said Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

At the end of his official visit to BiH, González Morales urged authorities at all levels in BiH to work together towards a State-led response to the migration situation.

"Facing an increased influx of migrants like many other countries in the region, there are positive aspects in BiH, which are aligned with international human rights standards," he said. "These include the use of detention as a measure of last resort, the non-criminalization of irregular entries, and the fact that migrants are generally accommodated in open reception centres."

However, González Morales said, the fragmented political structure, the lack of unity of vision as well as the lack of willingness of authorities at different levels for genuine cooperation have undermined the enjoyment of human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers.

"The fact that all reception centres are located in the Federation and that the majority of migrants are accommodated in Una-Sana Canton are clear illustrations of migration being highly politicized with divided agendas in the country," the Special Rapporteur said.

"The State of BiH has to take the lead in developing a comprehensive strategy, which provides durable solution for migrants, especially asylum seekers in the country."

He cited serious concerns about the dire living conditions at the Vucjak camp, a former landfill site that lies close to an area riddled with landmines.

"On the day of my visit, approximately 800 single man including around 20 minors were placed at the site. The condition of the site is inhuman and absolutely inappropriate for accommodating human beings.

"Winter is coming, to avoid loss of life, immediate action is needed to cease forcible escorting to the site and provide alternative location of accommodation for single male migrants who live outside reception centres, especially those who are currently at the Vucjak site."

ENDS

Mr. Felipe González Morales (Chile) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As a Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of International Law at the Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile, where he is also the Director of a Master's programme in International Human Rights Law.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

UN Human Rights country page – Bosnia and Herzegovina

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Yiyao ZHANG (+41 79 752 04 86 / yzhang@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact:
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org )

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