The "Bosnian Corridor"

October 2018

Bosnia-Herzegovina has seen a huge influx of migrants this year. According to official estimates, more than 16.000 have until end of September entered the tiny Balkan country. The real number is probably higher as more are smuggled in and uncounted. The migrants are on their way into the European Union and will from Bosnia then try to cross the less secured 900-kilometer border between Bosnia and Croatia.

This new ”Bosnian Corridor” is a result of the effective closure of Hungary's border to Serbia, thereby preventing migrants from entering. Many migrants have been waiting in vain in Serbia, and have now instead moved to neighbouring Bosnia to try to pass through Croatia on their way to Italy, and the EU.

Croatia is not part of the European Union's free movement Schengen zone, but hopes to join it soon, and as such is keen to prove it can police the EU's external border.
So as soon as the migrants enter Croatia, most are caught by Croatian border guards, and according to their testimonials, become maltreated, robbed, have their phones crashed and just sent back across the border to Bosnia.


Waiting. One of more than 13.000 migrants, standing in the Velika Kladuša camp.

Just outside the little town of Velika Kladuša in the northwestern part of Bosnia, a temporary camp has been erected. On a field about onehundred tents made out of some plastic tarpaulins have been erected. There is no running water, no toilets and no electricity.

-For three days the Croatian police kept us in jail. We did not recieve anything to eat. When we asked for food, they plainly just said no. Then they transported us back to the border and had us go back into Bosnia, Haider from Baghdad, Iraq, says. He left Iraq with his family more than half a year ago.

Haidar left Adhamiya, Baghdad, Iraq more than half a year ago with his wife, son and a daughter.

-Montenegro and Serbia, his little son, maybe seven years, says. Behind Haider, in the plastic tent, his wife and daughter sits.

-Do you think Croatia will open the border in a few days and let us in? he asks.
-Last year, when the first snow fell, it was open for fifteen days, I have been told. he says.

Haider and his family are not the only one who have tried to pass through Croatia to Italy. Most, over a third, come from Pakistan, followed by Iranians, Syrians and Iraqis, but also from Afghanistan and countries in the north of Africa like Algeria and Morocco.

Old clothes find new owners.

In an abandoned warehouse, an aid organisation has put up two showers for the migrants and in a room next to it, there are old clothes the migrants can choose from. Outside in the warming October sun, Ahmed from Syria shows his swollen face.

Allegedly maltreated by Croatian border guards. On their way for a shower.

-The croatian police caught us and beat us up. They crashed our cell phones and took our money, he says.

Cell phones with GPS, used by migrants for finding their way.

Besides the lack of border police officers, who would be controlling the state border, Bosnia also lacks the capacities to accommodate the migrants. What is done here, is done by volunteers.

In the city, the former pizza restaurant now only serves meat and potatoe stew.

Serving stew, not pizza. Asim with migrants.

-Sometimes with beans, or pasta, but we will have to cut down on meat nowadays, Asim Latic, who owns the restaurant, says. Since nine months he and some friends have been preparing food for more than hundred migrants a day.
-At first we paid everything with our own money but later we recieved donations, Some came with flour, others with meat, sugar or cooking oil. Then a few organisations helped us financially but for the last week, that help has ended. Now I am on my own with my four employees, Asim tells.

In the restaurant, migrants, mostly young men, come in, recieve a bowl of stew and some bread, eat, sit and talk. Most of them seem to know Asim and his colleagues, after the meal they thank him or sometimes give him a hug.
-You just missed to see what they call us, Papa, broder and other names... We remember how it was here during the Bosnian war. We were starving, so now we do what we can, Asim says but sighs:
-For us, the problem is now bread, oil and cooking gas. But we have no financing, no personal incomes or anything.

Border area. Borka sees migrants crossing almost every day.

Just southwest of Velika Kladuša runs the border to Croatia along the river, a swampy area here overgrown with bushes. In a small house on a hillside overlooking the border river, Borka lives. She is an old woman, supporting herself with a stick as she talks with us. It is raining and bitter cold now in the late afternoon.
-I see them almost every day, they try to pass into Croatia over there, she says and points with her stick.

-It has been going on now since early this spring. Sometimes I give them water, food or some old clothes I can spare and they are so thankful. Some even kiss my hand, she says.


© Lennart Berggren / Axiom Film        October 2018

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