Subject: [Stop-traffic] NEWS/Bosnia: New Balkans Trade
From: Jyothi Kanics (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Jan 30 2001 - 09:09:10 EST
WELCOME TO IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 213,
January 29, 2001 [excerpt on trafficking]
NEW BALKAN SMUGGLING TRADE Illegal immigrants flock to
Bosnia in the hope
being smuggled into Western Europe. Amra Kebo reports from
Illegal immigrants flock to Bosnia in the hope of being smuggled
By Amra Kebo in Sarajevo
Minutes after a flight from Tehran or Istanbul touches down, an
of Turkish, Arabic and Farsi reverberates around Sarajevo airport's
Once some of these arrivals pass customs control, they will simply
disappear, hooking up with criminals who will attempt to smuggle
Not all of them succeed - many, like Masoud and his wife Shireen,
intercepted trying to cross the Croatian border.
The Iranian couple, in their early thirties, arrived in Sarajevo with
two young sons. They had flown in from Turkey, their home for the
In Turkey, the family had tired of visa regulations which required
leave and re-enter the country every three months. Masoud had
time to leave.
They had fled Iran after being persecuted for being members of the
faith. "In Iran, if the government gets hold of a Bahai, they can kill
" said Masoud. " Now, my wife, our children and myself have
After being caught on the Croatian border, the family was
refugee camp in Bosnia. But Masoud says he will continue to try to
his family out of the country.
Bosnia has become a key hub for illegal immigrants trying to
Porous borders, an obscure visa system, weak administrative and
institutions and a largely ineffective local police force make the
an ideal conduit.
The immigrants are mainly Iranians, Turks, Iraqis and Tunisians, but
nationalities from Africa, Asia and the Middle East also attempt to
country as a springboard for Western Europe.
The extent of the problem was brought to light a year ago with the
up of the State Border Service.
The trouble is the new authority only controls Sarajevo International
Airport and three frontier crossings: Doljani in the south, Izacic in
northwest, and Zvornik in the east.
The force is pitifully inadequate given that there are 426 different
official and illegal crossings along the country's 1616 km border.
UN figures show that over the last year, 35,793 Iranians, Tunisians,
Turks and Chinese entered Bosnia through Sarajevo airport alone -
half are thought to have subsequently tried to sneak across the
The lack of visa requirements means most immigrants in
possession of a
passport can enter the country without a problem.
In an attempt to address the migrant problem, the authorities
visa restrictions for Iranians, the largest number of immigrants
the country. As a result, their number dropped dramatically.
But just as this hole has been plugged another has opened up. The
there's been a growth of migrants from China and Tunisia.
Foreigners arriving in Bosnia fall into two main categories: those
the country legally and then claim political asylum; and economic
The former are small in number. UNHCR says only 260 people
last year. Currently, 80 claims are being processed.
The latter, more often than not, are the ones who try to get to
European countries through illegal channels.
These are run by international gangs, according to Frederic
programme manager at the International Office for Migration, IOM.
outfits involved in drug and weapons smuggling are also trafficking
According to the UN and IOM, there are four basic routes. Three
smuggling the immigrants across the Croatian border - at Bihac,
and Brcko. A fourth ferries them from Adriatic coast to Italy.
The head of the UN mission in Bosnia, Jacques Klein, told IWPR
immigrants pay smugglers between 2,000 and 10,000 German
their country of origin.
As part of the deal, there's an unwritten rule that, if captured, the
traffickers will help immigrants twice more. Those who fail on the
attempt are left to try and make it across the frontier themselves,
according to Klein.
The smuggling operation is fraught with danger. The immigrants are
duped by the smugglers and many are thought to have drowned
the Sava river into Croatia.
The key to success lies in organization and it is here that the
excel, says IOM's Larsson. Unlike other groups, they have
reliable support network in Bosnia - increasing their chances of
the Croatian frontier safely.
Over the past year, police forces and border services in both
Croatia have improved their record of tracking down illegal
Since Zagreb and Sarajevo signed an immigrant extradition
July, Croatia has returned 5,361 people to Bosnia.
As with so many other things in Bosnia, the solution to the migrant
smuggling problem is mainly in the hands of international
since Bosnian institutions have neither the money nor the expertise
with it in any satisfactory manner.
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
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The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the
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Copyright (C) 2000 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
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According to UN officials, there is a plan to set up 50 tightly
international border crossings and close or control all others.
Yet for this, Bosnia would again need Western donations and loans
moment when the international support for the war-ravaged country
Amra Kebo is a regular IWPR contributor
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