Bosnia-Herzegovina has accused the European Union of failing to solve a brewing crisis as the country fears a potential "escalation" of EU-bound migrants passing through the country this year.
While the stream of migrants dwindled in the cold months of winter, Security Minister Dragan Mektic said authorities are preparing for a large wave this spring. "We expect the problem of migrants to escalate, not only in Bosnia-Herzegovina but along this route," the minister said in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP). According to Mektic, information from "official institutions, including European ones" indicates some "70,000 migrants are currently in Greece and are moving" with the aim of reaching Western Europe. "It is not only Bosnia's problem… We want to be part of the European solution, but the EU cannot agree on a solution. These illegal migrations have simply been allowed to continue." Poor and paralyzed by a fractured government, Bosnia-Herzegovina does not have the economic or political capacity to support a large increase in migrants, he said.
With only two official asylum and refugee centers, the small country of 3.5 million people, which aspires to be an EU member, is hard-pressed to cope with the migrants. The Balkan region has been the focus of migration-policy debates. Three years ago, the Balkan route was one of the main corridors for the more than 1 million migrants who reached Western Europe. Even though the route has all but been shut down since early 2016 through coordinated border closure measures, thousands of migrants still manage to pass through.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants who streamed northwards through the Balkans to EU territory in 2015 largely bypassed Bosnia-Herzegovina. But the ex-Yugoslav republic now finds itself struggling to accommodate about 5,000 people intent on making their way via neighboring Croatia to affluent EU countries further north. To curb migrants entering the impoverished country en route to EU territory, Bosnia's security minister, in June, called for legislative changes to enable border deployments of the army while accusing the EU of failing to manage the crisis. More than 9,000 people from Asia and North Africa have entered Bosnia from Serbia and Montenegro since the beginning of 2018, including 3,000 over the past month, and a similar number have managed to cross into EU member Croatia.