Local vs. regional context of the migrant crisis: status of irregular migrants in BiH

By Boris Vukušić


The migrant crisis that began in 2013 is characterized by a massive and predominantly irregular migration[1] of people from North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) countries to the European Union (EU). EU member states were affected primarily by security issues provoked by this crisis which also revealed specific weaknesses of the EU immigration policy.


Illegal migrants are, most commonly, subjects of the asylum procedure. The EU Common Asylum System (CEAS)[2] has set minimum procedural standards for asylum applicants, but their implementation is still not satisfactory given the fact that each EU member state has its own asylum application system. By analyzing reflection of international migration on the security of the EU, it can be argued that the set of legal acts known as the Schengen acquis[3] has not proved to be sufficiently consistent and effective when it comes to the protection of legal order and security of the EU (especially in Greece, Italy and Spain, which are de facto countries of the first contact with migrants). In addition, in case of illegal migrants it does not even seem to be a guarantee of the human rights that are protected by international and regional legal acts. The unfavorable state of security in the context of international migration was confirmed in 2016 in the European Commission Communication towards the European Parliament.[4]


Regarding efforts to keep and control illegal immigrants outside EU territory, the tension between the EU and Turkey (a non-EU state with the largest concentration of illegal migrants on the East-Mediterranean route) played a significant role. These tensions, essentially of political nature, have further burdened both the stability of the internal security of the EU and the security of other EU states and non-EU states that are on the east-Mediterranean migrant route.[5]


In spite of the expected full and effective realization of the protection of the principles of legality in the international migrations framework, certain provisions of the EU legal acts[6] have created an unwanted counter-effect and have led to the extensive development of illegal human trafficking, with massive violations of fundamental human rights. This fact is also supported by the number of illegal migrants who lost their lives through three different routes (central, eastern and western Mediterranean) on the way toward Europe: 2.429 migrants lost their lives in 2018.[7] That sum, counted since 2014, is a tenfold: there were 22.367 dead or missing migrants.[8]


As public policies of some EU member states (especially that of Hungary) become more stringent in terms of mass immigration, it made contribution to dislocation of one part of the earlier established East-Mediterranean migrant’s route. Because of impossibility to use the territory of Hungary as a transit, migrants started using a new route from Serbia through Bosnia and Herzegovina. Due to the blocking of further way to the EU territory (caused by rigid control on the Croatian borders and prohibiting further crossing over the Croatian territory) Bosnia and Herzegovina has no longer status of transit territory, but has become concentration and starting point for migrants.


The state authorities of BiH were completely unprepared to manage a migrant wave that was foreseen much earlier than it would happen. The first effect of the migrant wave pointed to serious problems generated by multiple factors: complicated constitutional and legal structure of the state, incompatibility of the state migration framework with EU communitarian legislation, dysfunctional division of competencies, lack of vertical and horizontal co-operation among the key bodies in order to preserve public order and security and the lack of adequate support to local communities by the state or entities (FBiH in this case). Furthermore, a significant degree of incompetence is visible in most created public policies in BiH - identical situation can be seen in the emigration policy, as one of the key public policies that belong to the sector public policy of law and order. Therefore, it can be generally assessed as inconsistent, inefficient and ineffective.


Without going into a deeper analysis of theoretical aspects and practical consequences of regional and international policy focused on the integration of immigrants, using practical examples and data it can be concluded that there is no effective public policy of immigrant integration. Knowing that the immigration policy of BiH is predominantly focused on the immigration of economic migrants, even superficial analyzes of the structure and implementation of related public policies show that the BiH authorities are significantly indifferent when it comes to the realization of the rights of legal immigrants. When it comes to the protection of the fundamental rights of irregular migrants, negative events that have been dated since the beginning of the wave of illegal migrants in BiH has shown that the BiH government is almost completely helpless. The aggravating circumstance is that the general migration framework of BiH shows considerable rigidity, in some segments is archaic, and to a great extent incompatible with the international and EU communitarian procedures and practice. The recommendation that experts must refer to the BiH authorities as a primary measure include the urgent analysis and modification of the immigration policy of the state, which means (1) a thorough analysis of the legal framework that has to be revised and adapted to the current moment, (2) fulfillment of obligations arising from international and regional agreements, (3) analysis of human and material resources involved in the practical implementation of public policy and the legal framework of migration, and (4) ways of mobilizing funds from regional and international funds with the aim of fulfilling the task of ensuring the protection of BiH internal security and the protection of fundamental rights of migrants.


What needs to be emphasized, both in the context of the rights of the legal as well as in the context of the rights of illegal migrants in BiH, is the (non)existence of an effective integration policy of immigrants regardless of their legal status. In European and world scientific discourse for several years exists an instrument which quantitatively measures the success of integration of immigrants at the national level of any country. This is the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX).[9] The importance, purpose and essence of MIPEX is to create a legal state framework that promotes the integration of immigrants on the principle of equal opportunities for all, including the civic and social component of integration. Two facts which should be seriously considered are that the sources on which MIPEX standards have been created embraces the regional and international legal acts (OUN, ILO and EU) and that the research process and methodology used in the creation of integration policy ranks are strictly scientific controlled by international experts to ensure the relevance of research results. After realization of the primary task which involves the analysis and modification of the migration policy in BiH, the mentioned MIPEX should be formally recognized and applied as an instrument that presents the actual state of integration of immigrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Balkan Studies Centre (BSC).



[1] (author's remark) According to IOM, irregular migration is a term that does not have a universally accepted definition and is therefore often mixed with the term illegal migration. It should be taken into account that irregular migration encompasses illegal migration which, measured by the severity of irregularities, is more serious unlawful act because of its close links to human trafficking. See more: https://www.iom.int/key-migration-terms (Access: 18.01.2019.)

[2] CEAS embraces Regulations 603/2013 (EU), 604/2013 (EU) „Dublin III“, and Directives 2011/95 (EU), 2013/32 (EU) and 2013/33 (EU). See more:

https://www.easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/public/BZ0216138ENN.PDF (Access: 23.01.2019.) and https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/background-information/docs/20160713/factsheet_the_common_european_asylum_system_en.pdf (Access: 24.01.2019.)

[3] Schengen acquis embraces the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Convention, which is later joined by Regulation 2001/51 (EC) that supplements Article 26. of the mentioned Convention. A comprehensive overview of the Schengen acquis is available at

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2000:239:0001:0473:EN:PDF (Access: 18.01.2019.)

[4] COM(2016) 197 (06.04.2016.) Access on 22.01.2019. at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM:2016:197:FIN

[5] An agreement between the EU and Turkey, which envisaged financial subsidies to Turkey with the aim of keeping and controlling illegal immigrants and assisting them, was signed in March 2016. For this purpose, the EU made a transfer of $ 3 billion from its own budget, and in June 2018 the contracted amount was increased by another 3 billion USD. See: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/migratory-pressures/eastern-mediterranean-route/ (Access: 24.01.2019.)

[6] Art.26 Schengen Convention and Art. 2-6 Regulation 2000/51 (EC)

[9] MIPEX is based on 167 different indicators that include analysis of eight policy areas (anti-discrimination, long-term residence permit, access to citizenship, political participation, family integration, education, mobility in the labor market and health care) and has currently created a ranking of migrant integration policies in 38 World countries (33 European countries, USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).