[Stop-traffic] NEWS/Bosnia: New Balkans Trade

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] NEWS/Bosnia: New Balkans Trade
From: Jyothi Kanics (jyothi@odihr.osce.waw.pl)
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
of
being smuggled into Western Europe. Amra Kebo reports from
Sarajevo

Illegal immigrants flock to Bosnia in the hope of being smuggled
into
Western Europe.

By Amra Kebo in Sarajevo

Minutes after a flight from Tehran or Istanbul touches down, an
exotic
mix
of Turkish, Arabic and Farsi reverberates around Sarajevo airport's
arrival
terminal.

Once some of these arrivals pass customs control, they will simply
disappear, hooking up with criminals who will attempt to smuggle
them
into
Western Europe.

Not all of them succeed - many, like Masoud and his wife Shireen,
are
intercepted trying to cross the Croatian border.

The Iranian couple, in their early thirties, arrived in Sarajevo with
their
two young sons. They had flown in from Turkey, their home for the
past
five
years.

In Turkey, the family had tired of visa regulations which required
them
to
leave and re-enter the country every three months. Masoud had
decided it
was
time to leave.

They had fled Iran after being persecuted for being members of the
Bahai
faith. "In Iran, if the government gets hold of a Bahai, they can kill
him,
" said Masoud. " Now, my wife, our children and myself have
become
Christians."

After being caught on the Croatian border, the family was
dispatched to
a
refugee camp in Bosnia. But Masoud says he will continue to try to
smuggle
his family out of the country.

Bosnia has become a key hub for illegal immigrants trying to
sneak into
Western Europe.

Porous borders, an obscure visa system, weak administrative and
legislative
institutions and a largely ineffective local police force make the
country
an ideal conduit.

The immigrants are mainly Iranians, Turks, Iraqis and Tunisians, but
other
nationalities from Africa, Asia and the Middle East also attempt to
use
the
country as a springboard for Western Europe.

The extent of the problem was brought to light a year ago with the
setting
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
the
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,
Iraqis,
Turks and Chinese entered Bosnia through Sarajevo airport alone -
well
over
half are thought to have subsequently tried to sneak across the
Croatian
border.

The lack of visa requirements means most immigrants in
possession of a
valid
passport can enter the country without a problem.

In an attempt to address the migrant problem, the authorities
introduced
visa restrictions for Iranians, the largest number of immigrants
entering
the country. As a result, their number dropped dramatically.

But just as this hole has been plugged another has opened up. The
UN
says
there's been a growth of migrants from China and Tunisia.

Foreigners arriving in Bosnia fall into two main categories: those
who
enter
the country legally and then claim political asylum; and economic
migrants.

The former are small in number. UNHCR says only 260 people
claimed
asylum
last year. Currently, 80 claims are being processed.

The latter, more often than not, are the ones who try to get to
Western
European countries through illegal channels.

These are run by international gangs, according to Frederic
Larsson,
programme manager at the International Office for Migration, IOM.
Criminal
outfits involved in drug and weapons smuggling are also trafficking
people,
he says.

According to the UN and IOM, there are four basic routes. Three
involve
smuggling the immigrants across the Croatian border - at Bihac,
Srebrenik
and Brcko. A fourth ferries them from Adriatic coast to Italy.

The head of the UN mission in Bosnia, Jacques Klein, told IWPR
that
immigrants pay smugglers between 2,000 and 10,000 German
marks, depending
on
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
third
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
often
duped by the smugglers and many are thought to have drowned
trying to
cross
the Sava river into Croatia.

The key to success lies in organization and it is here that the
Chinese
excel, says IOM's Larsson. Unlike other groups, they have
established a
reliable support network in Bosnia - increasing their chances of
crossing
the Croatian frontier safely.

Over the past year, police forces and border services in both
Bosnia and
Croatia have improved their record of tracking down illegal
immigrants.

Since Zagreb and Sarajevo signed an immigrant extradition
agreement last
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
organizations,
since Bosnian institutions have neither the money nor the expertise
to
deal
with it in any satisfactory manner.

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent
non-profit organisation supporting regional media and democratic
change.

Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, UK
Tel: (44
171)
713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140 E-mail: info@iwpr.net; Web:
www.iwpr.net

The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the
authors
and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of
IWPR.

Copyright (C) 2000 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

*** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: http://www.iwpr.net ***

According to UN officials, there is a plan to set up 50 tightly
controlled
international border crossings and close or control all others.

Yet for this, Bosnia would again need Western donations and loans
at the
moment when the international support for the war-ravaged country
is
declining.

Amra Kebo is a regular IWPR contributor
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