Migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the face of the underground economy

Migrants who are in Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally cannot work and depend on money from home for basic necessities, and getting this money is not easy. Obaidullah Daulatzai arrived in Bosnia from Afghanistan and hopes to travel to Germany. Like most migrants, her family sends her money through a service like PayPal or Western Union.

“They have a person in Afghanistan, they give him money, money he sends me here,” Daulatzai said. “And somewhere in Sarajevo, someone is helping us.”

A migrant from Afghanistan washes his clothes in the abandoned industrial complex of Bihać on Friday, April 16, 2021 (Matthew Algeo)

Someone is helping him because only legal residents can withdraw money from banks in Bosnia; migrants must find a Bosnian willing to withdraw the money for them. “We give it 10%,” Daulatzai explained. “He sent me € 100. He takes 10%, he gives me 90 €.

And 10%, in fact, is a pretty good rate. Other migrants claim that this unofficial “tax” on remittances can reach 20%.

The migrants describe an attempt to cross the border with Croatia, a member of the European Union, as “playing the game”. One migrant – who asked us not to use his name because he is in the country illegally – said he had “gone into play” more than 20 times. The Croatian police pushed him back to Bosnia each time.

“You have to have some money to try out the ‘games,’ he said. “Each time, it’s the same story. While the Croatian police catch you, they will take it and not return it. “

It adds up – each attempt costs a migrant around € 100 for food, clothing and other equipment.

Currently, around 200 migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan are camping in a large abandoned factory in Bihać, a small town in western Bosnia and Herzegovina near the Croatian border. They spend the time playing cricket with an old tennis ball and a makeshift bat, waiting to be able to “keep the game going” once more.

Bonny J. Streater

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