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03 March 2024

Bosnia unwilling to play EU's migration border guard

Photo: AFP


As EU states look to stem migrant flows to the continent, aspiring European Union member Bosnia is caught in the middle, with thousands of immigrants stuck in the impoverished Balkan country.

The vast majority of migrants and refugees aim to claim asylum inside the 28-nation EU and Bosnia is irritated at European plans which would see their movement halted at its frontier -- in effect making Bosnia the continent's border guard.

In early June, the European Commission agreed to provide Bosnia with 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) to help cope with the arrivals seeking to reach the EU.

As a key section of the migrant route into Western Europe, Bosnia decided to set up a reception centre in Velika Kladusa, in the country's northwest, near the border with EU member Croatia.

But Security Minister Dragan Mektic, indicating the European Commission has since said they did not want to finance a facility they were concerned was too close to the border, on June 27 vowed "there will be no refuge camps in Bosnia".

"We cannot turn Bosnia into a 'hotspot'. We can only be a transit territory," Mektic added in a speech last week in Bihac, a western city of some 65,000 currently housing the majority of the newcomers.

Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic warned against what he termed any attempt by the European Union, "and notably Croatia", to turn Bosnia into "a migrant impasse".