Since 2015, more than one million migrants and refugees, including around 300’000 children, have travelled through the Balkans Route in an attempt to reach Europe. The agreement with Turkey (March 2016) instead of slowing down the flow of people, adults and minors, in transit, has only increased their vulnerability: there is an increasing number of migrants victims of violence, abuse, and robbery by unscrupulous smugglers. Children, especially unaccompanied minors, are most at risk of violence and abuse, including sexual violence.
Although until 2017, the flow of migrants and refugees – mainly from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – remained constant, since January 2018, with the drastic closure of the Mediterranean border, there has been an increase of 66% in the number of people arriving to Bosnia-Herzegovina, amounting to around 70’315 people, of whom approximately 17’000 in 2020. In 2020, only in Una-Sana Canton, the Bosnian worst affected Canton by the migration flows mainly coming from Algeria, Morocco and Somalia, despite a sharp decline in new arrivals compared to the previous years due to the spread of COVID-19, there were 8’000-11’000 people officially identified and registered. Actually, the real number of new arrivals in 2020 is estimated to be almost twice, “invisible” people who, escaping from all sorts of official referral systems, without any right and living in poor sanitary conditions, are at high risk of exploitation, violence and abuse, and Human-trafficking.
Since 2018, Save the Children North West Balkans, in an attempt to respond, in a timely and targeted manner, to this dramatic migration emergency (since 2020, sanitary and emotional as well), has inaugurated a new type of “emergency response” intervention to ensure minors on the move, including accompanied and separated children, full access to high quality services in terms of protection, educational and social integration, as well as psychosocial support, inside and outside the 3 Transit and Reception Centers of Bira, Borici and Sedra, set up in Una-Sana Canton. The HEART method has been chosen for its flexibility and intrinsic ability to respond therapeutically, through the artistic expression, to the needs of children suffering from different psychosocial traumas, including migration-related traumas, and PTSD.