a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but governmental respect for this right remained poor during the year. Violence, intimidation, harassment, and threats, including death threats, against journalists and media outlets continued during the year. BH Journalists, a professional association, noted that passive attitudes of institutions, primarily the judiciary and the prosecutor’s offices, left room for threats and pressure to continue and increase. Numerous restrictive measures introduced to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit access to information. A considerable amount of media coverage was dominated by nationalist rhetoric and ethnic and political bias, often encouraging intolerance and sometimes hatred. The absence of transparency in media ownership remained a problem. Ownership of online media remained opaque in many instances. For many broadcast and print outlets, only information about nominal ownership was available.
Freedom of Expression:
The country’s laws provide for a high level of freedom of expression, but the implementation and application of the law seriously undermined press freedoms. The law prohibits expression that provokes racial, ethnic, or other forms of intolerance, including “hate speech,” but authorities enforced these restrictions only occasionally. In July the high representative for BiH amended the criminal code of the country to sanction genocide denial, the glorification of war crimes, and the incitement of racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, and violence, but as of November no persons had been indicted or prosecuted for these acts.
Data from the Free Media Help Line (FMHL) indicated that courts continued to fail to differentiate between different media formats (in particular, between news and commentary), while long court procedures and legal and financial battles were financially exhausting to journalists and outlets. The FMHL concluded that the number of defamation cases against journalists and editors remained high, especially in instances where journalists were investigating crime and corruption. Available data indicated that 80 percent of defamation cases were initiated by government officials or politicians. Continued incorrect implementation of the defamation laws caused direct pressure against journalists and media that jeopardized journalists’ right to freedom of expression. BH Journalists warned that the number of so-called SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) charges was increasing and that enormously high damage compensation claims were directed at undercutting the financial stability of media.
Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:
Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, but sometimes this resulted in pressure or threats against journalists. Officials confronted with criticism intensified the practice of calling journalists traitors or labeling them as members or affiliates of opposition political parties, using harsh insults to discredit them. BH Journalists noted that gender-based attacks and pressure against journalists had increased since 2019. The law prohibiting expression that provokes racial, ethnic, or other forms of intolerance applies to print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals but was seldom enforced.
The Communications Regulatory Agency (CRA) received 11 complaints related to hate speech but did not determine any cases as hate speech in the broadcast media. The Press Council, which operates as a self-regulatory membership-based body for both online and printed media outlets across the country, registered 297 complaints related to hate speech, all of which were related to online media, one to an article published by a news agency, and seven related to content published on social media. Of the complaints, 295 were related to comments from web portal visitors. As of September, 136 complaints had been resolved through self-regulation.
The web portals Sejl.org and Bosnjaci.net conducted a yearlong slander campaign against media professional and University of Sarajevo professor Lejla Turcilo, accusing her of “poisoning Bosniak children” and labeling her a “genocide denier.” BH Journalists issued a statement condemning the attacks. As a result, BH Journalists general secretary Borka Rudic also became a target of similar attacks. Nationalist web portals accused both women of supporting war criminals and insulting the prophet Muhammed. Journalist and television presenter Nikola Vucic and N1 (a CNN affiliate) editor in chief Amir Zukic endured similar attacks due to efforts to address the smear campaign against Turcilo. Both were accused of supporting war criminals. Safe Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists strongly reacted to the campaign. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media Teresa Ribeiro condemned this targeted online hate campaign against media professionals in BiH, urging authorities to take effective measures to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
Political and financial pressure on media outlets continued. The negative economic effects of the pandemic further eroded the financial stability of media across the country, often forcing them to scale back their operations and making them more vulnerable to outside pressure. Some media outlets noted that allegations of tax evasion and elaborate financial controls continued to be powerful tools in attempts to intimidate and control outlets.
The number of attacks against journalists increased during the year. Attacks on journalists’ professional integrity and freedom of the press continued throughout the year. Public officials obstructed the work of journalists. This period was marked by attempts to restrict access to information in several areas. Restrictions imposed during the pandemic remained in place. They included government officials organizing press conferences broadcast by only one media outlet with no journalists present, making follow up questions impossible. Submission of questions remotely allowed officials to choose what questions they answered. Government release of pandemic-related data also varied, and some public hospitals shared information only with selected media outlets. Several instances of restricting the press while reporting on the migrant situation in the country were reported. In January a group of local and international correspondents were prevented from filming the Lipa migrant camp near Bihac. Although there were no signs prohibiting filming, inspectors from the Ministry of Security forced a group of journalists into their car, confiscated their documents, and required them to delete recorded materials. BH Journalists wrote to the Ministry of Security, urging it to respect freedom of access to information and freedom of movement. A television correspondent from O Kanal was prevented from filming outside a local refinery in Brod. After he refused to surrender recorded material to on-site security, police detained and threatened him with a lawsuit. Due to a swift reaction from BH Journalists, charges were never filed. Mostar-based journalists filed a complaint with FMHL in February because the city administration of Mostar prevented them from reporting on the election of the mayor of the city.
The practice of pressuring journalists to censor their reporting continued during the year. Reaction to investigative stories focusing on the corruption of high-level judicial officials and their lack of accountability continued generating pressure on journalists. After web portal Istraga.ba published a report exploring the credibility of alleged attempts to threaten the security of the BiH chief prosecutor, the chief prosecutor issued a public refutation accusing the author of “anti-civilized and barbaric discrediting” of her personality, of instigating “national and religious hatred,” and “paving the road for elimination of all those standing in the way of paramilitary circles.” BH Journalists condemned the pressure on the reporter. Sarajevo-based Face TV continued to face pressure coming from the ruling Bosniak ethno-nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) because of its reporting on instances of corruption linked to this political party. In one of its responses, the SDA stated the reporting of Senad Hadzifejzovic, Face TV’s owner, was untruthful and motivated by “hurt vanity, anger, or some other motives.” BH Journalists underscored that continued political pressure against Face TV represented unacceptable interference in the outlet’s editorial policy and alleged that the objective was to label them as an “enemy, unpatriotic, and propaganda outlet.” News portal Bljesak.ba was pressured after they reported the filing of criminal charges against the minister of interior in Herzegovina Neretva Canton. The minister, who declined to comment to the outlet, called the editors after the story was published, accusing them of doing a story “for their own interests.” In a written reaction he labeled Bljesak.info unprofessional and irresponsible for publishing an “anonymous and untruthful pamphlet.”
Authorities continued exerting pressure on media outlets to discourage some forms of expression, and party and governmental control over some news outlets narrowed the range of opinions represented in both entities. Public broadcasters at the state (BHRT) and entity level (RTV FBiH and RTRS) continued to operate without stable and sustainable income that would enable independent editorial policy. Public broadcasters therefore remained vulnerable to strong pressure from government and political forces. They remained exposed to political influence, especially through politically controlled steering boards, because existing legal solutions failed to provide mechanisms that protect editorial independence. Independent analysts stated that limiting the competencies of entity parliaments in the process of the appointment of the steering boards of public broadcasters remained crucial for their editorial independence.
The institutional instability of the governing structures of RTV FBiH continued, as the broadcaster failed to elect a steering board or appoint organizational management and remained open to political influence. As a result, RTV FBiH continued to demonstrate a selective approach to news. The RS government continued to increase its direct control of RTRS, which strongly amplified the positions and narratives of the ruling coalition in the RS entity. BHRT yielded to increased political pressure and continued to censor its own reporting. Authorities remained subject to competing political interests and failed to establish a public broadcasting service corporation to oversee the operations of all public broadcasters in the country as provided by law.
The CRA, which regulates the audiovisual media market, lacked full financial and political independence. The mandate of the CRA Council expired at the end of 2017, but the parliamentary commission for the appointment of the council had not decided on its mandate renewal by the end of the year. CRA repeatedly warned that a major delay in switching from analogue to digital broadcasting could have dangerous consequences on media plurality in the country. During the year, Croatia demanded that BiH switch off several public and commercial terrestrial transmitters. CRA ordered the shutdown of terrestrial signal transmitters for several channels in BiH to be completed by the end of 2021 in the RS entity, including for Bijeljina-based BN TV, a non-RS government aligned media outlet branded “anti-Serb” by the Serb member of the BiH Presidency and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik.
Violence and Harassment: Intimidation, violence, and threats against journalists were recorded during the year. Intimidation and politically motivated litigation against journalists for their unfavorable reporting on government leaders and authorities also continued.
As of July the FMHL recorded 62 cases involving alleged violations of journalists’ rights and freedoms, including one death threat and two physical assaults. In one incident, bodyguards of the Serb member of BiH Presidency and SNSD party leader Milorad Dodik physically stopped a cameraman from the Insajder.in web portal and forced him to erase from his camera all footage of a gathering of the ruling SNSD party in Banja Luka in late September. In addition, a local SNSD official forced the cameraman to show his identification card, photographed it, and asked the cameraman for his home address. According to 2006 to 2020 data from BH Journalists, authorities prosecuted approximately 30 percent of criminal acts reported against journalists and investigated more than one-third of the alleged violations of journalists’ rights, illustrating that inefficient investigations into attacks against journalists by police and prosecutors’ offices continued.
In February a crew from Banja Luka-based Elta TV was prevented from doing an interview with a former RS Railroads company worker and was threatened by RS Railroads security guard Milenko Kicic. Kicic insulted his former colleague and threatened the television crew, saying he would smash their camera if they disobeyed his orders. Elta TV reported this incident to police, who filed a criminal complaint against Kicic. RS Railroad issued a statement that their worker Kicic was just doing his job, without threatening anyone, while the television crew was not authorized to make any recording of their company’s facilities.
Verbal attacks against journalists continued during the year, some of them also gender based. Serb member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik repeatedly insulted media representatives and analysts, calling them “traitors, mercenaries, and hostile media” when they presented facts or opinions with which he disagreed. On May 24, he insulted political analyst Tanja Topic, Banja Luka-based employee of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, calling her an “agent of the German intelligence service” and “a proven quisling.” Dodik also insulted her family members. BH Journalists and international community representatives condemned the attacks on Topic’s personal and professional integrity. In addition, on several occasions Dodik attacked BNTV representatives, calling them traitors. During an August 10 primetime interview on RTRS, Dodik called BNTV and its owner, Vlado Trisic, traitors who work against the interests of Republika Srpska. On September 30, during a press conference in East Sarajevo, he said the station was part of an “organized criminal enterprise.”
During the year several web portals experienced cyberattacks. In February web portals Zurnal.info and Buka.com were subjected to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattacks, and on August 10, Nezavisne novine reported DDoS attacks against its website Nezavisne.com. Zurnal.info, an online media outlet focused on anticorruption and investigative journalism, was exposed to a four-day cyberattack that started February 18 and disabled access to the website. Zurnal’s server host said it had never experienced such a complex, carefully planned and executed cyberattack. At the same time similar cyberattacks were conducted against online media outlets Buka.com and Nomad.ba. The cyberattacks against Nezavisne.com started on August 10 and recurred for several days. The cyberattacks were reported to police. BH Journalists reacted in February, noting they had sent letters to the cybercrime departments of the Federation Police Administration and the RS Ministry of Interior asking for an efficient and thorough investigation of these cases. On February 25, following the cyberattacks on media portals Zurnal and Buka, the OSCE Mission to BiH, the EU Delegation and EU special representative, the Embassy of the United Kingdom, and the Office of the High Representative issued a statement calling on BiH authorities to investigate all attacks on media websites because they represent a clear danger to media freedom. Following the most recent DDoS cyberattack in August, the BH Press and Online Media Council’s Steering Board called on police and the prosecutor’s offices for an urgent response, condemned the hacker attack, recalled other such attacks against online media, and noted that the cyberattacks, in addition to denying the right to free reporting, also inflicted economic damage on media outlets.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Multiple political parties and entity-level institutions attempted to influence editorial policies and media content through legal and financial measures. As a result some media outlets practiced self-censorship. Government institutions restricted access to information in some instances related to the COVID-19 crisis, coverage of the migrant situation in the country, and access to information related to ongoing cases of corruption. Cases of allowing only selected media representatives to cover events were noted. In some instances, media sources reported that officials threatened outlets with loss of advertising or limited their access to official information. Prevailing practices reflected close connections between major advertisers and political circles and allowed for biased distribution of advertising time. Public companies, most of which were under the control of political parties, remained the key advertisers. Outlets critical of ruling parties claimed they faced difficulties in obtaining advertising. The 2020 lockdown and numerous restrictions related to the pandemic had a direct negative impact on the finances of media in the country, making them more vulnerable to economic and political pressure.
Libel/Slander Laws: While the country has decriminalized defamation, many complaints continued to be brought before courts against journalists, often resulting in extremely high fines. Noteworthy court decisions against journalists included temporary bans on the posting or publication of certain information as well as extremely high and disproportionate compensatory payments. In June and July, the Municipal Court of Sarajevo issued two verdicts ordering payment of unusually high fines and penalties in defamation cases against two media outlets. Following a court order, more than 212,000 convertible marks (KM) ($127,000) were seized from the bank account of the publishing house Avaz-roto Press, based on a 2009 defamation case and a related 2016-2019 case about publishing the court ruling. Avaz-roto Press was found guilty and had previously already paid KM 5,000 ($3,000) in damages and covered additional accompanying court costs. In July the online media outlet Zurnal was ordered to pay more than KM 170,000 ($102,000) based on a first-instance court ruling in a defamation case. The BH Journalists association expressed concern that such excessive fines and penalties could seriously jeopardize the work and business of media outlets, noting the need to find a balance between the economic power of the media, the public interest, and the right to compensation. The Steering Board of the BiH Press and Online Media Council expressed concern, noting that such high fines and penalties are at odds with projecting journalistic integrity and endanger the work of the media.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that it monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The law prohibits expression of racial, ethnic, or other intolerance, including hate speech, but authorities did not enforce these prohibitions for online media.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were some government restrictions on academic freedom. The cantons of Tuzla and Sarajevo have laws that could restrict the independence and academic freedom of universities within their jurisdictions by allowing elected municipal authorities to hire and fire university personnel, including academics, at their discretion.
The country’s eight public universities remained ethnically segregated, including their curricula, diplomas, and relevant school activities. Professors reportedly on occasion used prejudicial language in their lectures, while the selection of textbooks and school materials reinforced discrimination and prejudice.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The laws provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected this right. Leaders of the informal group Justice for David, however, reported harassment by RS police in Banja Luka. Justice for David gatherings in Banja Luka have taken place without major incidents, but in one instance RS police tried to use COVID-19 mitigation measures as a pretext to block a rally. Members of the group were sometimes detained and charged with crimes, but the charges were eventually dropped, or the members were acquitted.
The Justice for David movement emerged in response to the 2018 killing of 21-year-old David Dragicevic, which had not been solved by year’s end. Dragicevic’s family mobilized thousands of citizens in support of their search for the facts of the killing and demand for justice. The RS entity government justified its decision to ban all public gatherings of the group, including protests, claiming the movement failed to fully respect the law during previous rallies. Some journalists and protesters alleged that during the arrests police used excessive force on Justice for David protesters and produced photographs that appeared to support their claims.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community organized a third pride event on August 14 in Sarajevo with approximately 900 participants. The event passed peacefully and with no incidents, but it required heavy police security given multiple threats against organizers and participants. Because members of the Pride Organizing Committee were exposed to hate speech and threats before, during, and after the event, many members felt compelled to go into hiding to prevent possible attacks after the event.
Laws governing the right to free assembly in different parts of the country were generally assessed to be overly restrictive. Examples include the prohibition of public assembly in front of numerous public institutions in the RS entity, while some cantonal laws in the Federation (e.g., in Central Bosnia Canton) prescribe criminal liability for failing to fulfill administrative procedures for holding a peaceful assembly.
Freedom of Association
The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. Under the law NGOs can register at the state, entity, and cantonal levels in a generally streamlined and simple administrative process. Cooperation between the government and civil society organizations at the state and entity levels remained weak, while government support for civil society organizations remained nontransparent, particularly regarding the allocation of funds. Independent NGOs complained that government distributed funding to NGOs connected to ruling political parties.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights, but some restrictions remained.
In-country Movement: Although the law on asylum provides for freedom of movement for asylum seekers, authorities of Una-Sana Canton imposed restrictions without a legal basis. This resulted in asylum seekers – including some who were duly registered with the asylum authorities – being forcibly removed from public transport at the entrance of the canton. Unlike in the past, there was no exception on the restriction of movement for vulnerable categories including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, and persons with medical conditions. Restrictions on entry to and exit from temporary reception centers (TRCs) were put in place, and new admittances of persons to the Miral TRC in Velika Kladusa were barred and strictly enforced by local police. All restrictions on transport and reception in TRCs remained in force under the guise of COVID-19 mitigation measures. In addition, authorities in the RS entity regularly restricted the movement of migrants and asylum seekers within its territory and in some cases provided transport to the Interentity Boundary Line at Rudenice/Kljuc where they were not permitted access to Una-Sana Canton by local police, leaving them stranded at the checkpoint.
e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons
Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees statistics indicated that 96,305 individuals still held internally displaced person (IDP) status resulting from the 1992-95 conflict. The majority of Bosniaks and Croats fled the RS entity, while Serbs fled the Federation. At the beginning of the year, UNHCR was directly providing protection, assistance, or both to 479 IDPs. According to UNHCR an estimated 3,000 persons, including IDPs, continued to live in collective accommodations throughout the country. While the accommodations were meant to be temporary, some had been living in them for 20 or more years. A substantial number of IDPs and returnees lived in substandard conditions that affected their livelihoods.
The country’s constitution and laws provide for the voluntary return or local integration of IDPs consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The government actively promoted the safe return of refugees and IDPs or the local integration of persons in their place of displacement, depending on their specific situations. The government allocated funding for returns and participated in internationally funded programs for return. Isolated attacks against minority returnees continued but were generally not investigated or prosecuted adequately, and there were no major developments with regards to improved access to rights and services – particularly the right to education in their language – for vulnerable IDPs and returnees.
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum (refugee or subsidiary protection status), and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum seekers with pending claims have a right to accommodation at the asylum center until the Ministry of Security makes a final and binding decision on their claims, although in practice only asylum-seeking families were accommodated, resulting in single men and unaccompanied children being accommodated in a limited number of temporary reception centers, limiting their access to asylum. In addition, the two centers specifically designated to accommodate asylum seekers – Asylum Center (AC) Delijas and Refugee Reception Center (RRC) Salakovac – remained underutilized. Accommodation in either is not based on asylum status or intention but instead on the capacity of the Usivak TRC where referrals are made and approved by the Ministry for Security, resulting in most families staying for brief periods before pursuing onward movement.
The overwhelming majority of refugees and migrants arriving in the country were issued an attestation on expressed intention to seek asylum (94 percent of 80,000 arrivals since January 2018) although very few intended to apply for asylum in the country. Accommodation in any of the reception centers is contingent on possession of this attestation document. This created a severe backlog in the asylum system, which has no mechanisms for identifying and prioritizing those with protection needs and a willingness to pursue international protection in the country over those pursuing onward movement. As a result there were extreme delays for persons wishing to register an asylum claim. For asylum claims registered between January and July, the average wait time between issuance of an attestation and registration with the Sector for Asylum was 182 days, and this was only for those who managed to register. The processing times for those who were registered were also excessive, averaging 422 days between registration and the issuance of a decision during the year, meaning that on average the asylum process can take up to two years from initial issuance of an attestation to issuance of a decision.
To register a claim, individuals must be invited by the Sector for Asylum. Asylum authorities currently only regularly invite unaccompanied children and families accommodated in the Usivak TRC and persons in private accommodation to register asylum claims. Single men in other TRCs, persons in Una-Sana Canton, and those accommodated in government-run centers – AC Delijas and RRC Salakovac – were not invited to register claims and thus effectively had limited or no access to the asylum procedure. The highly restrictive access to the asylum procedure and the lengthy and inefficient procedure for those registered resulted in many abandoning the asylum process, and authorities suspending most cases prior to issuing an initial decision (546 suspensions compared to 85 decisions in 2020 or 86.5 percent of cases being suspended).
Authorities also maintained a restrictive approach to assessing asylum claims, granting refugee status in just three cases since the start of the mixed movement surge in 2018. They instead granted subsidiary protection in cases when refugee status would likely be more appropriate – such as cases involving Syrian citizens – while most cases were denied outright at the first instance, including 27 of the 31 or 87 percent of the decisions issued during the year. Asylum seekers have the right to appeal a negative decision before the Court of BiH, although the court lacked specific expertise on asylum and often upheld the initial decision issued by the asylum authorities, while only intervening on issues related to the process rather than the content or quality of the decision. When appeals were upheld, they were returned to the Sector for Asylum for reexamination, although often the second decision remained unchanged. Gaps remained regarding access to rights and services for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, including education, healthcare, free legal aid, employment, and basic social services.
In reception centers, international organizations, NGOs, and volunteers provided services which varied depending on the facility. There were two government-run centers (AC Delijas and RRC Salakovac) which remained underutilized, while most asylum seekers and migrants resided in five temporary reception centers operated by the International Organization for Migration in cooperation with the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs in Sarajevo (Usivak and Blazuj) and Una-Sana Cantons (Borici, Miral, and Lipa). In response to a lack of accommodation for unaccompanied children, the Ministry of Security in cooperation with the IFS EMMAUS Center for Children and Youth in December 2020 began providing protection-sensitive accommodation in a center for migrant and asylum-seeking children. Due to the center’s location in Doboj East, away from the larger concentrations of asylum seekers and migrants in Sarajevo and Una-Sana Cantons, most children opted instead to seek accommodation in TRCs, particularly those designated for single adult males, exposing them to exploitation and abuse risks. There remained an acute lack of protection-sensitive accommodation for other vulnerable categories or persons with specific needs, including those with physical and mental disabilities, families with children, survivors of gender-based or domestic violence, persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, elderly persons, and victims of human trafficking.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impede the asylum claim registration process.
As a result of the mass influx from 2018, authorities largely stopped the previous practice of detaining irregular migrants in the Immigration Center in Lukavica, mainly due to its limited capacity. NGOs including free legal aid providers continued to have limited access to the immigration detention and asylum centers, on the grounds of COVID-19 mitigation measures. Access to information, free legal aid, and asylum remained a concern for those detained in the Immigration Center, especially given the risk of return and refoulement for those detained.
Certain provisions of the laws on extradition give authorities the possibility of extraditing a person who has expressed the intention to seek asylum if the request was made after the country had received an extradition request.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law provides for the application of the concept of “safe country of origin or safe third country.” Authorities may deny asylum to applicants who cannot prove they were unable to return to their country of origin or to any country of transit. The application of this concept would require that the BiH Council of Ministers make a list of safe third countries and countries of origin, which the Council of Ministers has not yet approved.
Durable Solutions: The legal framework provides a program for integration and return of refugees and displaced persons. The country was party to a regional housing program funded by international donors and facilitated in part by UNHCR and the OSCE to provide durable solutions for up to 74,000 refugees and displaced persons from four countries in the region, including 14,000 of the most vulnerable refugees, returnees, and IDPs from the country. The process of selecting program beneficiaries was protracted due to capacity and management problems that resulted in extended delays in the reconstruction of homes. Fragmented institutional arrangements added administrative delays to the process, as did the political imperative to select beneficiaries proportionally from among the country’s constituent peoples. The BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees drafted a bylaw on practical support for greater integration of refugees and persons granted subsidiary protection in society.
The government provided subsidiary protection status to individuals who qualified as refugees. In the first seven months of the year, authorities provided subsidiary protection to four individuals, and by the end of July there were 50 persons with subsidiary protection status in the country. While subsidiary protection status affords individuals access to education, healthcare, labor, and social welfare, there remained problems accessing these rights in practice. Subsidiary protection status requires the annual review and confirmation of status by the authorities and does not include a pathway to permanent residency and ultimate naturalization, and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are not issued travel documents and are not entitled to family reunification, therefore hindering local integration and achievement of durable solutions.
g. Stateless Persons
As of July UNHCR was aware of 69 persons, including Roma, children born to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, persons born abroad without birth registration, and persons lacking birth certificates and citizenship registration at risk of statelessness. UNHCR continued to provide assistance to authorities to facilitate birth and citizenship registrations. From 2009 to August, UNHCR assisted 1,765 individuals in confirming their nationalities through its implementing partner, the NGO Vasa Prava BiH.