A month ago the border violence monitoring network (BVMN) was invited by the United Nations (UN) committee on the economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR) to present a submission during the 70th session of the committee. This submission evaluates observations and trends concerning the physical as well as psychological abuse of people-on-the-move in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that happen during push-backs as well as within BiH and criticizes systematic failings when it comes to provide shelter, health access and basic needs in camps as well as squats (self-organized housings).

Based on testimonies from people-in-transit BVMN concludes that BiH fails to meet it’s obligations and violates Articles 11 and 12 of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights due to a number of observations:

  1. Essential items (like money or phones) get stolen by authorities, mainly in Croatia and partially in Bosnia (submission, p.:4).
  2. People aren’t given enough or even no food while in detention (p.:5 ibid.) and the conditions are unsanitary and inhumane. (p.:8 ibid.).
  3. Violence is being used by the authorities during push-backs (p.:6 ibid.).
  4. There is no adequate access to physical and psychological healthcare in BiH for PoM (p.:15 ibid) likewise basic healthcare is denied by police during push-backs regardless of existing injuries or preconditions (p.:7 ibid).
  5. The accommodation possibilities are absolutely inadequate in camps as well as in migration centers and outside the official state structures (p.:9 ibid). With a lack of food and water in camps as well as outside (e.g. authorities try to forbid access to supermarket to PoM as well as criminalizing support structures (p.:12-13 ibid.), sanctuary facilities (p.:12 ibid.), a general lack of security with testimonies reporting about violent behavior of private security forces in official camps, camps running far beyond capacities and cumulative evictions (p.:10-11 ibid.).

Our collective focus its analysis on the responsibility of the EU concerning the situation in BiH. We therefor try to understand the role of the EU with its external borderscapes stretching over whole countries integrating BiH within the EU border regime. Further, we look at how the EU outsources and partially finances the most brutal aspects in countries that are identified as important transit countries (like BiH) or countries of origin, some of those aspects are mentioned in the BVMN report. Nevertheless, if one understands the border regime as a process in which a multitude of actors play a role and where a constant test of strength between control (by institutions, authorities and ultimately states) and migration (expression of security and / or the freedom to choose one’s own place of residence) takes place, local governments and authorities are also an important actor in the border regime. Due to the heterogeneity and self-interest of all actors involved, the border regime is subject to a constant negotiation process. But the asymmetry of power in the relationship between the EU and its neighboring states means that the EU can (ultimately) often enforce its own interests. We therefore don’t want to exclude the responsibility of the EU fostering the bad and inhuman situation for people on the move in BiH which ultimately leads to a report like the one we summarize above. The failings of the Bosnian state to fulfill their responsibilities are failures of the EU as well. The support the EU offers is never for the sake of the PoM or the population of BiH but for the mere cause of keeping people outside the EU.

The EU must be held accountable for what is happening at its external borders due to its border policy resulting in unacceptable conditions for people-in-transit.