Bosnia is the informal name of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is located in the Balkans and is a developing country. It was a part of the former Yogoslavia.
The total population is around 3.3 million people with three distinct groups, Bosniaks who are Muslim, Bosnian Serbs and Croats. Each group has a president and the three presidents are supposed to work together to run the country. You only need to ask a local about how this is working...
Bosnia is actually called Bosnia and Herzegovina but there are actually three distinct regions. Republika Srpska is predominantly Serb, the Federation is mostly Bosniak, and Herzegovina is kind of its own thing in the south of the country. The official Bosnian capital is Sarajevo but Banja Luka is the capital of Republika Srpska - so it might depend on who you’re talking to.
Where I am
I’m in Una Sana Canton. A canton is a fairly autonomous area (like a county but bigger) near the border with Croatia. It’s a stunning, mountainous area and is a popular tourist destination for outdoor activities like hiking and water sports. The River Una is clear and beautiful and the pride of the locals. Una Sana bears the burden of the migration crisis due to its location at the Croatian border.
Here are some official statistics about the number of people on the move here. Most of them are guessed or lied about.
Total people: 7200
People camps: 5000
Asylum requests: 1600
Asylum granted: 0 (2018) Data from here
It’s estimated by local organisations that, in the area in and around the city of Bihać, there are at least 2000 people outside of the camps.
Bihać is the biggest city in the canton and the hub for the multiple organisations that are trying to help. The big NGOs here include International Organisation for Migrants (IOM), Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who have different roles and responsibilities in and out of the official camps. There are plenty of smaller organisations too of which my organisation No Name Kitchen is one of. There’s a lot of history here connected with Turkish occupation and Austro-Hungarian conflicts to World War II and the recent Bosnian War. The beautiful mosque in the main, pedestrianised square used to be a church. Cafes and bars range from the hipster to the grotty and there’s a bakery and a vegetable shop on every corner.
The end of the war, just 25 years ago, is written indelibly on the country: in the faces, buildings and mountains. Bullet holes are still visible on the walls of houses, and grassy craters from grenades line the road. The migrant crisis is unavoidably public too. Groups of bored and tired guys sit in the park and wander the streets - the camps are full and there are few safe places to go.
There’s a lot for me to learn about the politics here. Politics is everything. People on the move are suffering at the hands of the politics of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Western Europe, and we must find a way to make a contribution towards helping them and raising awareness.
Wish me luck, questions and comments below.