Bosnia and Herzegovina



In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) laid the foundation of its migration management structures and made improvements to its legislative framework.  Mainly a source and transit country for irregular migration, human trafficking and smuggling, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a home to small numbers of foreigners from Serbia (including Kosovo), Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro and China. These five countries of origin account for 68.50% of all persons issued temporary residence permits in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 2011 and 2012. 
With an overall MIPEX score of 41/100, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s policies are hardly even halfway favourable for societal integration. Newcomers face slightly more obstacles than opportunities to participate in society, as in the case of Serbia, FYROM, Croatia and other new countries of immigration in the region. Foreigners go through short and low-cost family reunion procedures, which can be easily undermined by the authorities’ discretion. This is also a problem in the long-term residence and naturalisation procedures in Bosnia, like in many Central European countries. Furthermore, immigrants do not receive any extra support to get further training, help their children in school, or participate in political life.

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Opening labour market access in new countries of immigration

    The most recent MIPEX study found that many new immigration countries are increasingly opening equal access to the labour market to all legal temporary residents. The major countries of immigration in Southern Europe (Italy, Portugal, Spain) grant newcomers nearly equal opportunities to change jobs and careers, and equal access to general support. Poland in 2009 and Hungary in 2010 granted all non-EU temporary residents the right to self-employment. General and targeted support for migrant workers is already more favourable than average in several new immigration destinations, including Portugal, Spain, Estonia, and Romania.   

     Upon arrival in Bosnia and Herzegovina, temporary migrant workers cannot change jobs and sectors, use general job support or access adult education or vocational training. This legal access and general support is provided to immigrants in many other new and established countries of immigration (ES, PT, US). The jobs that they manage to find in Bosnia could be below their skills, since they cannot benefit from any targeted support, even in regards to recognition of skills and qualifications acquired abroad, in contrast to the practices in the major developed immigration countries. Although they pay taxes, some temporary migrant workers may have difficulties accessing social security benefits because access will depend on bilateral and multilateral agreements with different countries. Positively, they will be entitled to the same working conditions, social security and access to trade unions, as in most European countries, and could start their own business, like in most of the MIPEX countries. 

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    Conditions and procedure: from law to practice

    Many Central European countries create few legal obstacles for non-EU citizens to apply for family reunion, but maintain very discretionary procedures with many grounds for authorities to reject them. This is not the case in Poland, where the law contains only few additional grounds for rejecting family reunion applications or withdrawing the status of family members (as in CA, IT, ES). AT, NL provide entitlements in cases of death, divorce, separation and violence, while several countries (e.g. FR, PT, ES, SE, NO, US) are working on clearer residence autonomy for all families after a few years. Slovenia’s 2011 Aliens Law broadened the definition of the family to registered or co-habitating partners, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.  Lithuania and the Czech Republic also use inclusive definitions, recognising registered partnerships.  

    As in several new immigration destinations in Southern and Central Europe, reuniting families can benefit from slightly favourable legal conditions.  They go through short and low-cost procedure, which, however, can be easily undermined by the authorities’ discretion.  Families could still be rejected or refused on wide discretionary grounds, without due account taken of their personal and family circumstances, unlike most of the EU countries.  Not in conformity with EU standards, they have limited access to autonomous residence permits in case of widowhood, divorce or violence. Moreover, only temporary migrants residing for more than 18 months in the country and permanent residents are eligible to apply for their spouse and children. Due to the restrictive definition of family, applicants are also not able to reunite with their partners.

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    Adapting schools in recent countries of immigration

    Estonia provides all newcomer pupils with compulsory, continuous, and standardised support to learn Estonian, as well as their own language and culture. Similarly in Czech law, language courses should be needs-based, professionally taught, and regularly evaluated, while mother tongue and cultures should be available. Czech teachers can integrate multicultural education into their curriculum through state-supported pedagogical materials and teacher trainings like the much-used information portal ( Slovakia also recently introduced ‘multicultural education’ into its curriculum as well as intercultural education trainings for qualifying and working teachers. 

    Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is critically unfavourable for integration of migrant children, scoring 9/100, way below the average for most Central and Eastern European countries. All children, irrespective of their legal status, have access to pre-primary and compulsory-age education, although their legal right is not explicitly regulated in law. In contrast, in half of the MIPEX countries, all immigrant children enjoy equal access to all levels of the school system. Beyond legal access, Bosnia and Herzegovina offers hardly any support for immigrant pupils. Newcomer children can benefit only from general support measures to access pre-primary education and assessment of prior education, according to standardised quality criteria and implemented by trained staff.  Children cannot benefit from any integration measures for their specific needs, unlike MIPEX countries, which provide basic integration programmes for immigrant pupils. Most MIPEX countries, including Central and Southeastern European countries, provide additional tuition for immigrant pupils to master the official language of the country, additional funding or teachers for schools with immigrant pupils, and teacher trainings on immigrants’ needs and intercultural education. Most other countries also support the teaching of immigrant languages and cultures during the school day.

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    The participation of foreigners in public life at local level

    Although policymakers increasingly list participation in public life as a key area of integration, opening political opportunities often takes time and significant reforms. New immigration countries in Central and Southern Europe have made progress. Several Central European countries have granted long-term residents the right to vote in local elections (Czech Republic in 2001, Estonia and Slovenia in 2002) and to stand as candidates in local elections (Lithuania in 2002 and Slovakia in 2003). Most countries have used the new European Integration Fund to support associations working on integration. Local and national authorities have started a dialogue and consultation with associations of foreign residents. Examples range from Portugal and Spain to Ireland, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. For instance, the Spanish Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants has an independent chair and issues opinions or reports on any drafts affecting social integration. The Forum has the right to prepare reports, plans, programs on request or own initiative, and to formulate its own proposals and recommendations. Members from immigrant-run associations participate extensively in the preparation and discussion of reports and resolutions, and secure much government consensus around their recommendations.

    Joining political parties or creating media are the only two formal rights that foreigners have to participate in public life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Apart from the restrictions on voting and standing in elections, newcomers also face restrictions on forming associations and accessing public funding for their running. Moreover, they cannot benefit from any form of structured consultation with foreigners on integration policies, even on the basis of pilot projects, as in Greece and the Baltic States. If foreigners in Bosnia do not naturalise, they are largely deprived from opportunities to participate in public life, a problem in several other new countries of immigration in the region (Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria).

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    An entitlement to long-term residence

    EU Member States agreed and implemented the EC long-term residence directive (2003/109/EC), with the common objective that the integration of long-term residents will promote economic and social cohesion. Since then, several new immigration countries introduced the entitlement to long-term residence for most temporary residents. For example, Portugal’s 2007 law opened long-term residence to nearly all categories of legal residents and protected them from deportation anyone born in the country, living there since childhood, or raising their children there. According to the ECHR case law, expulsion decisions must take into account several of their life circumstances.

    Even though long-term residence applicants in the country benefit from fairly inclusive legal conditions, they cannot enjoy completely secure residence status, contrary to EU legal standards.  They have few protections against expulsion and can lose their unlimited residence permit due to the wide grounds, including if the original conditions are no longer satisfied. Applicants go through a short and low-cost, but rather discretionary procedure and need to meet a vague language requirement, without any available support. Furthermore, students are excluded from the possibility to apply for this status. 

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    Accepting dual nationality and birthright citizenship

    Dual nationality and some form of birthright citizenship are becoming the norm in most established countries of immigration across Europe. The past decade has seen significant reforms in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Luxembourg, and, until recently, Greece. Since the last edition of MIPEX in 2010, similar citizenship reform bills or laws have been introduced in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, and Poland. For more, see:

    Unless foreigners originally came from Bosnia or descend from a Bosnian, they must undergo long, costly and discretionary path to citizenship, only halfway favourable for their integration, which is a barrier to integration in many new countries of immigration. To be eligible for naturalisation, ordinary applicants are required to wait at least 8 years in total, from which 3 years of permanent residence, around the European average. Even though they are not required to pass language or integration requirement, many of them are forced to give up their original nationality, unless there are bilateral agreements with their country of origin allowing dual nationality. Due to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s discretionary procedure, naturalised citizens are slightly insecure in their status. 

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    Where are the strongest equality bodies in the region?

    Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection Against Discrimination, Hungary’s Equal Treatment Authority, and Romania’s National Council on Combating Discrimination, offer victims independent advice and can issue binding appealable decisions. Romania’s Council is an independent administrative body with a jurisdictional mandate. Hungary’s Authority also has the legal standing to intervene on behalf of the complainant, while also instigating its own procedures, although only against certain public bodies. In the policymaking process, Bulgaria’s Commission can submit legally binding recommendations to the parliament and government to prepare bills and abolish discriminatory laws.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina’s anti-discrimination legal framework contains some of the EU law basics - victims can benefit from financial and NGO assistance, shifts in the burden of proof, alternative dispute resolution procedures and wide-ranging sanctions to prevent, discourage or correct discrimination. However, the law lacks specific additional provisions that would make protection for foreigners against discrimination even more effective. For example, people in Bosnia are not protected against nationality (citizenship) discrimination, multiple discrimination (see AT, BG, UK) or racial profiling. Moreover, victims cannot benefit from a strong equality body, as in the case of BG and HU. The country’s Ombudsman for Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina has rather weak powers and cannot make binding decisions and enforce findings. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina could do more to promote equality through social and civil society dialogue and compliance monitoring (see PT, ES, UK, and Nordics).