The UNHCR urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to adopt a temporary protection directive option for Ukrainian refugees to legally stay in the country and access services and to ensure that they are not further exposed to numerous protection risks by initiating another journey to safety.
The UN organisation noted that soon after the war in Ukraine started, more than 300 refugees from Ukraine, the vast majority of them being women and children, have since found a temporary home in BiH, mainly in Medjugorje, “where they were warmly welcomed by their host communities who showed great generosity.”
Entering BiH was not difficult for Ukrainian citizens since there is a 30-days no-visa regime in place, the organisation said.
“Uncertain about the future of Ukraine with new developments every day, having left a husband, a brother, a father or other family members behind, the hope to return as soon as the situation would stabilize, is in the mind of each of them. They therefore need a flexible and temporary solution that would warrant them protection,” it said, adding that this is why more than 25 European countries have adopted “the temporary protection directive option that offers Ukrainians the right to legally stay and access services, since the usual asylum procedures in place in most countries are not meeting the needs of this population at this point in time.”
“Unfortunately, in BiH the authorities have not yet put this option in place. For some of these people in need of international protection the 30 days of stay in BiH have passed now and most of them decided to continue their journeys out of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the hope to find a country which can provide them better legal protection and solutions. They are finding themselves on the road again exposed to numerous risks,” it said.
UNHCR said that, together with the Red Cross, it has been coordinating efforts with other humanitarian organisations to assist Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine, but stressed that the most important assistance these people need are “responsible and appropriate decisions by the authorities” and that the Temporary Protection directive must be adopted as soon as possible, and that it is critical that information on the options these refugees have be provided to them to avoid any unnecessary further displacement.
“Even though actions should have been taken from the first day the Ukrainian refugees started arriving, there is still time to react, to at least protect the refugees that are still in the country,” it said.
With assistance from major national and international organisations, BiH can offer adequate support and assistance to ensure the vulnerable Ukrainian refugees are not further exposed to numerous protection risks by initiating another journey to safety, the organisation said.
“UNHCR, whose global mandate is to provide support to governments to protect refugees, stands ready to advise and support the authorities in BiH on reception conditions, communication with refugee population, protection activities and durable solutions. Collaboration with key actors will ensure a better and timely response and provide refugees from Ukraine the protection they deserve,” it said.