Question: Reception facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In order to be able to exercise my parliamentary control function as a Member of the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to put questions to the European Commission. The Commission must answer these questions.
Together with other Members, I put the following questions to the Commission:

Subject: Adequate EU funding and long-term reception facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including for vulnerable groups

The Commission has been funding reception operations for asylum seekers in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2018. The funding has enabled the establishment and maintenance of temporary reception centres, including health services following the COVID-19 outbreak, and supported key humanitarian assistance outside these centres. Funding has provided adequate reception and living conditions in several locations, but the announcement by the Government of Una-Sana Canton (USK) to close camps already in operation (Bira and Miral) has worsened the now already inadequate reception capacities, particularly for vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied minors and children, who are often forced to remain in informal settlements and squatted houses or to hide in the open in the forest.

1. what the Commission's position is on the announced closures of the Bira and Miral reception centres, which jeopardise the effective and sustainable use of EU funds?

2. how it can support the accommodation of vulnerable groups, particularly following the closure of the Bira and Miral reception centres?

3. in view of the approaching Bosnian winter, will the EU support minimum humanitarian conditions for asylum seekers, in particular for vulnerable groups, including possible expansion of reception capacities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, preparation for winter in the Lipa emergency camp and provision of emergency humanitarian assistance outside reception centres?

Answer given by Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi on behalf of the European Commission on 09.12.2020:

The European Union has strongly condemned the action of the authorities of Una-Sana Canton to close the Bira Reception Centre in Bihac and transfer the refugees and migrants to the COVID 19 emergency tent camp in Lipa, which was already at full capacity and does not meet the conditions for winter use[1].

The European Union has urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to take all necessary measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis; this is of particular importance just before the onset of winter. The BiH authorities must ensure adequate accommodation for refugees and migrants, and in particular for vulnerable groups, by making full use of all existing capacity, including that of the Bira reception centre, and by providing suitable alternative facilities for those admitted to Lipa as well as for refugees and migrants currently outside the reception centres. Emergency humanitarian assistance will continue to be provided to those who have to stay in unsuitable conditions outside the reception facilities, by offering dry food, sleeping bags, warm clothing, first aid and onward referrals. The authorities should facilitate the work of humanitarian partners and contact support.

The European Union is seeking appropriate solutions with the competent authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet the needs of refugees and migrants and in particular to prevent the closure of the Miral reception centre. It will continue to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in managing migration and addressing the humanitarian situation. The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation on the ground in cooperation with its humanitarian partners.