About UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people.

UNHCR was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. UNHCR leads and coordinates activities to protect and support refugees worldwide. However, the primary responsibility to protect refugees is always with the Government of the country where refugees live.

What is the role of UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is party to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and the Government has the responsibility to process asylum claims and to decide whether somebody can be granted refugee status in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, therefore, UNHCR does not register asylum seekers, UNHCR does not examine asylum applications and UNHCR does not issue refugee documents. The government is responsible for that.

UNHCR’s role in Bosnia and Herzegovina focuses on working with the Government, non-governmental and other organizations, volunteer networks and communities to ensure the protection of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  • UNHCR advocates for the improvement of policies and services that affect the lives of asylum seekers and refugees.
  • UNHCR supports the Government to improve the process through which people can apply for asylum and access rights.
  • Where necessary, UNHCR supports the Government to address gaps in the fulfilment of the basic needs of asylum-seekers and refugees. In some cases, UNHCR provides support when there are gaps related to shelter, water, sanitation, food, basic household items, health, education, information provision, coordination and site management. UNHCR does this either directly, working with partners, and through advocacy and coordination as appropriate. UNHCR’s role varies from location to location, depending on the identified needs and partnerships.
  • UNHCR assists asylum-seekers by connecting them with partners who can provide psychosocial support and legal advice and representation.
  • UNHCR also provides support to government officials, the staff of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others to enhance their capacity to understand and respond to the needs of refugees.

What can UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina do for you?

UNHCR staff will listen to you and inform you of the options and procedures that are available to you to allow you to make informed decisions for yourself. Everything you say will be confidential. UNHCR will also refer you to relevant organizations or an authority that might be able to provide you with the services or support necessary. UNHCR will only share your information if you agree.

  • UNHCR staff can give you clear and practical legal information. We can inform you about the procedures that you must complete when you arrive in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We can provide you with information on how to apply for asylum, family reunification in another country, local integration or assisted voluntary to return to your home country. We can also inform you of your rights and obligations as an asylum seeker or beneficiary of international protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • UNHCR staff will explain to you specific procedures that may apply to the following groups: a) unaccompanied children, b) persons with a disability or persons suffering from an incurable or serious illness, c) elderly, d) pregnant women or women having recently given birth, e) single parents with minor children, f) survivors of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence or exploitation, or persons with a post-traumatic disorder, g) victims of trafficking, h) persons at risk of statelessness. Only if you agree, will UNHCR staff share this information with the authorities or other organizations.
  • If you are at risk because of your gender, age or sexual orientation, UNHCR can advise you on where to seek help. We can refer you to the relevant organization or authority for further support and protection, but will only do so if you agree.
  • UNHCR staff can give you information on possibility for family reunification.

UNHCR’s responsibilities are limited to the following:

  • The primary responsibility to protect and assist asylum seekers and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is with the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. UNHCR works to support the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in achieving that objective.
  • The role of UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina does not include receiving and/or processing of asylum or resettlement applications. UNHCR staff will inform you of how you can apply for asylum with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • UNHCR in Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot return you to your country of origin or another country. But we will inform you of the options available and how you can ask for assisted voluntary return.
  • UNHCR can only facilitate shelter and assistance to vulnerable individuals and families within the overall system provided by the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other organizations.

How does UNHCR put its activities into place?

UNHCR works directly through its own staff, through international and national NGOs and local authorities, as well as through advocacy and coordination roles. These include:

For information on how to find UNHCR, please see here.