Escape to Europe

Caritas improves the living conditions of refugees stranded in Bosnia-Herzegovina

More than 7,000 people on their way to Western Europe are stuck in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The border crossings with Croatia are closed. The refugees are living in appalling conditions. Caritas Switzerland is supporting the aid effort of Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina to improve the food and hygiene situation in particular. 


The length of the EU’s external border between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia is 923 kilometres. It is strictly guarded, with a restrictive migration policy. As a result, people making their way on land to seek protection in Western Europe often find themselves trapped in Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to UNHCR estimates, the country was hosting more than 7,200 refugees and migrants at the end of June.

They often live in wretched conditions. Many camps and centres are overcrowded, the shelters don’t provide enough protection against the cold or heat, the hygiene situation is catastrophic. Large quantities of food and basic essentials are needed, the medical services are overwhelmed by the number of patients. Jointly with the EU, the UN and various NGOs, the local authorities are trying to cope with the situation. 

Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina strives to improve the living conditions in four accommodation centres. In June 2019, Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina asked for help from the international Caritas network for the second time. Caritas Switzerland once again supports the activities of its sister organisation.

Essential nutrients for children, clean clothes and psycho-social support 

In three centres where many families live, Caritas distributes food parcels and hygiene kits each month. The food parcels include special food for infants as well as fresh fruit and vegetables – and thus supplement the food deliveries from other aid organisations. In a fourth centre, Caritas helps to ensure that an urgently needed laundry can function. This enables more than a thousand persons a month to wash their clothes and prevent hygiene-related diseases. 

Caritas also supports two local organisations in running basic social centres. They offer the stranded people a chance to relax, make contacts or borrow games. They also receive psycho-social support. 

Flexibility is important

The situation is volatile and unpredictable. In order to be able to meet the most urgent needs of the refugees as effectively as possible, the aid is constantly adapted to local developments. Caritas coordinates its work closely with the local authorities, the UN and other NGOs.


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