Bosnia has registered the arrival of about 20,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa this year – compared to just 755 last year – as they seek new ways into the EU around tightly controlled borders.
The migrant crowd is purportedly made up of young men of Pakistani, Iranian, Algerian and Moroccan descent as opposed to earlier migrant “waves” from Syria.
And there are almost no women in this group.
What troubles is that most of these men are armed with knives.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Una-Sana Canton, 10,544 migrants and refugees have been registered crossing the area since the beginning of this year, 9,383 of them in the area around the main town, Bihac.
In the last two months, about 5,000 new refugees and migrants have been recorded in the town, according to local police and NGO data.
The number of those who are currently in Bihac has been estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000 – migrants who are trying to reach Western Europe.
The migrants do not understand why the borders are closed, because they do not wish to stay in Croatia anyway.
Some two hundred migrants who stayed over the past months in an improvised tent camp near the northwestern Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, only a few kilometres away from the border with Croatia, came to the Maljevac border crossing last Tuesday, insisting that the border be opened so they could continue their journey towards European Union countries.
UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Desperate Journeys report on the movements of refugees and migrants through Europe, issued in September and covering the period from January to August 2018, said that, among the 2,500 refugees and migrants who were turned back at Croatian borders, there were more than 100 children and more than 700 adults who complained of violence and theft.
The growing crisis at the Bosnian-Croatian border comes a month ahead of a UN conference in Morocco, where The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration will be adopted.
The pact is described as a framework to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of migration.
Despite the agreement’s stated goal, a number of states, namely the US, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, have backed out of the pact, while several others are weighing this option.
In October 2017, the Soufan Center assessed that out of the over 40 000 foreigners that joined Daesh from more than 110 countries, around 5 600 from 33 different countries have returned home.
The number of FTFs from the Western Balkans is estimated to be around 845.
In July 2017, the Radicalisation Awareness Network estimated that about 30% of over 5000 Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) who resided in Europe, and left to Syria, Iraq or Libya, returned back to the continent.
INTCEN assesses that about 1 400 have returned to Europe, while over 900 are presumed dead.
This implies that circa 2 500 European FTFs are still close to combat zones or unaccounted for.
Data on FTFs is neither exhaustive nor standardised.
This said, the following infographic offers a contextual understanding of the magnitude of the omnipresent threat from Daesh’s global ranks.
Risk of firearms and drugs smuggling at the regional and common borders
In an attempt to create a better understanding of the international dimensions of firearms smuggling in the region and work towards more efficient solutions through coherent and concerted regional approaches, the Frontex Risk Analysis Unit together with representatives of Western Balkan countries, taking part in the WB-RAN, agreed to set in
place a regular data exchange related to cases of firearms possession/smuggling detected by the border police forces of the respective countries.
Provisional definitions/indications and a standardised reporting template were created for the collection of the most relevant information related to cases of firearm detection. Following these definitions/indications, the information covering 2015 was collected as
a result of an organised workshop.
The process then continued with monthly reporting by participating countries throughout 2016 and 2017.
As it is still a new initiative, these definitions/indications, template and the aggregated data are still subject to improvement, based on practical experience, further discussions/proposals from participants but also depending on available resources.
Overall detections at the borders
In 2017, the border police forces of the six regional Western Balkan countries
continued to detect weapons (firearms, 20 gas-powered 21 and converted 22 weapons),
and ammunition during their activities.
At the regional level the reporting lists 360 weapons and parts, 15 grenades,
25 339 rounds of ammunition, 3 kilograms of explosive material, 12 kilograms
of explosive precursors and two detonators, all detected in 209 cases.
Compared with 2016, the number of rounds of ammunition rose by 51%, the number of gas weapons/parts registered a six fold increase while the number of firearms/parts and the quantity of explosive substances or precursors decreased (by 9% and by 35 kilograms, respectively).
Meanwhile 2016 only registered one converted weapon, no detonators and no grenades
(2, 2 and 15, respectively, in 2017).
In order to put the assessment into perspective, it should be kept in mind that the volume of detections in both 2016 and 2017 remained relatively low considering the total length of the borders in the region.
Serbia continued to rank first in terms of detections of weapons/parts, and ammunition,
followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
20 Firearm – factory-made as a firearm. 21 Gas weapon – a firearm using compressed gas or low quantity of gunpowder; generally not meant to be lethal 22 Converted weapon: initially designed as Gas / Signal / Alarm / Pneumatic and modified into normal firearm (shooting projectiles). Also includes reactivated weapons (from previously disabled firearms) or weapons modified in any other way (ex. semi to fully automatic etc).
At the regional level, among the detected firearms/parts 46 were handguns
(pistols and revolvers), 53 long rifles or shotguns and nine automatic weapons.
Additionally, for eight of the parts detected it remained unclear to what type of firearms they belonged. Of the 242 gas weapons/parts, 69 were handguns, while 173 were long rifles.
Both of the converted weapons detected were handguns.
Most detections occurred at BCPs
In 2017, most detections occurred at BCPs.
Specifically, BCP detections contained 21 101 rounds of ammunition, 240 gas weapons/parts, 54 firearms, one converted weapon, three grenades and two explosive detonators, 71 rifle scopes and two parts of handguns, whose nature remained undetermined at the moment of reporting.
Overall, Serbia’s BCPs at the borders with Bulgaria, with Croatia and Hungary reported most weapons in 2017, largely on entry to Serbia.
Four firearms and 1 197 rounds of ammunition were reported at the green borders throughout the region.
Such detections are likely linked to hunters without licences or hunting out of season
as the detected firearms were all long rifles/shotguns.
The authorities also detected 44 firearms, two gas-powered weapons, one converted handgun, 12 grenades, 12 kilograms of substances considered explosive precursors and
2 946 rounds of ammunition in their area of responsibility (generally within 30 km of the borders) but not in the immediate vicinity of the borders.
Additionally, 14 firearms, 95 rounds of ammunition and 3 kilograms of explosive substances
were detected outside the usual area of responsibility (more than 30 km inland).