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news 08 Aug 17

Half of All Bosnians Live Outside Bosnia

There are at least two million people who originate from Bosnia and Herzegovina now living abroad - 56.4 per cent of the population of the country itself - and emigration shows no sign of stopping.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
 
 Photo by: Shutterstock.com.

There are at least two million people living abroad who originate from Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to data from the countries in which they live and from Sarajevo’s diplomatic missions abroad.

According to the data, published in a report on migration trends by Bosnia’s Security Ministry, Bosnian citizens mostly emigrate to Germany, followed by Austria, Croatia and Serbia.

Brain drain’ of educated youth

Sasa M, a 22-year-old law student from the small Bosnian town of Kotor Varos, had been waiting since early morning for the Slovenian consulate in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka to open its doors.

He was one of three dozen people standing on the street with a bunch of papers in their hands in front of the grey building in downtown Banja Luka.

Sasa wants to apply for a working visa in Slovenia, the former Yugoslav republic which is now a member of the EU, where he has found himself a job.

Although he studied law, he will labour as a construction worker in Slovenia - but despite that, he considers himself lucky.

“I will get a job, I will get paid, I will be able to help my family and maybe to make some plans for the future,” Sasa said with a smile on his face.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a precise record of people who have left the country, the only statistical data comes from the Agency for Identification Documents, Registers and Data Exchange, in its records of people who have deregistered their place of residence due to emigration.

This means that the number of expatriate Bosnians might be even higher.

“A large number of people who left Bosnia and Herzegovina did not have to be deregistered from their earlier place of residence, so we can say that the diaspora of Bosnia and Herzegovina is more than two million people,” demographer Aleksandar Cavic told BIRN.

According to the agency’s data, 4,034 people deregistered their place of residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, of whom number 1,196 moved to Germany, 895 to Austria, 888 to Croatia, 487 to Serbia, 421 to Slovenia, 63 to Montenegro, 38 to Norway, 36 to Holland and 10 to other countries.

Emigrants often send home money to help families and friends in the country, and the Bosnian Central Bank estimates that last year they transferred 2.4 billion Bosnian marks (around 1.2 billion euro) in remittances from abroad, which together with foreign pensions which are paid in Bosnia and Herzegovina amounted to 3.6 billion marks or 1.8 billion euros.

According to data from the World Bank, the number of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina who live abroad is 44.5 per cent of the country’s overall population, which puts it in 16th place in the world when it comes to the emigration rate compared to the overall population of the country.

The latest data from the World Bank shows that according to its emigration rate, Bosnia and Herzegovina is way ahead of Serbia (18 per cent), Croatia (20.9 per cent) and even Albania (43.6 per cent), which for years was the leading country in Europe by emigration rate compared to overall population.

Cavic said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was not making efficient use of its growing diaspora, however.

“To seriously count on the diaspora as a resource, we have to keep records of the diaspora. We need to make a database of people who left Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are not doing that,” he said.
Emigration is directly linked to unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly among the country’s youth.

According to the Balkan barometer of the Regional Cooperation Council, the majority of the population is dissatisfied with the life in the country and 50 per cent are prepared to leave and work abroad.

“If we do not immediately take measures [to institute a] pro-natal policy [to boost the birth rate] and, of course, real and concrete economic policy measures, we have no future,” Cavic warned.

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