human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Visit to camp Bira

Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina in Bihać

Between 23 and 24 May 2019, Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina organised with the support of Caritas Banja Luka a study visit “learning from best practises” for staff working on migration issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of the visit was to learn about our own good practices, but also to show another reality to staff working in Salakovac with the same population. The first day, staff met at Caritas Banja Luka’s office. This was an opportunity to exchange the newest information regarding the situation of migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to plan the visit to Bihać.

On the second day, staff from three Caritas, Nikica Prskalo and Tanja Valentić from Banja Luka, Zrinka Majstorović and Darja Čobanović from Mostar and Kristina Bičvić and Dijana Muzička from Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina visited Caritas Banja Luka’s laundry service in the Bira camp in Bihać. Katica and Brankica, two employees at the laundry service, welcomed us with a huge smile, just as they have been smiling for migrants for the past year in this camp.

Katica told us her story:

It is not easy to look at these people living in such inhumane conditions. We know here in the laundry service what it means for them to have the possibility to wash and dry their clothes here. We do not speak the same language, but language is not necessary. It is quite enough to see their smile and expression on their faces. That is my reward. You know, for months we used to find 5 pfennigs, 10 or 20 in their pockets. After a while, I counted the money and it was around 20 convertible marks (10 euros). I started to think what to do with it, to give some of it to them to buy something, or something else? I wondered, if I just give the money that would be easy, but for me that was not quite enough. Therefore, I paid a Holy Mass on behalf of them. For God to keep them safe and to find a better life. I am a religious woman, I really believe in the strength of prayer.

After the laundry service, we visited a “Social café” managed by the Italian organisation IPSIA in the Bira camp, just a few meters from the laundry service. Together with staff from IPSIA and Caritas Italy, Caritas Bosnia and Herzegovina staff heard the story how they make the life of these people more bearable. In the social café migrants can drink a hot tea, talk among themselves or simply listen to music of their choice from a loudspeaker connected with Bluetooth to their phones. Caritas Banja Luka is going to support this social café with supplies of tea.

After these meetings, staff made a round through Bihać, saw many migrants moving around, the student dormitory and around it many women with children. After the visit, staff exchanged their opinions of what they saw and felt. They could see the difference between different locations.