BiH migrants: Do we count (on) them?

A policy brief by Lejla Kamenjas and Nermin Oruc, September 2013


INTRODUCTION Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) is at top of the list of the countries with largest emigration as a share of total population; it is estimated that 1,3 million or 38% of total population of BIH now lives abroad. This puts the policies related to emigration and diaspora at the top of the agenda of all institutions in BIH. Furthermore, BIH is a potential candidate for EU membership, which implies that BiH will have to negotiate the process of implementation of the rules set in different chapters of the EU Acquis, including chapter 18: Statistics, which require the existence of a strong statistical infrastructure capable of answering demands for statistical reporting. Recent introduction of liberalization of the European visa regime for BIH citizens and Croatian membership to EU increased the need for migration management supported by accurate and regularly available migration data.

HOW DO WE COLLECT DATA ABOUT MIGRANTS IN BiH TODAY? Current situation with regards to the collection of data on BIH migrants is much better today than it was few years ago. The main improvement factor was the road map specified by the EU as a condition for visa liberalization. agreement between the EU and Western Balkans. However, the country does not have a comprehensive set of reports about migration in BiH. It resulted in a Decision of the Council of Ministers on Obligation of Delivery of Data on Migration and International Protection to the Ministry of Security (MoS), (BiH Official Gazette, 83/09). The Decision specified 34 tables that should be produced by different institutions collecting data on migration and delivered to MoS for the purpose of producing annual Migration Profiles. The efforts have been made to harmonize the data with the requirements for reporting migration statistics to the EUROSTAT – further specified in the EU Regulation 862/2007 but there is more room for improvements. Majority of the tables that are harmonized are about issues such as asylum or border crossings, which are not of particular importance for national policies, such as emigration. Additional efforts have been made in the period 2010-2012 through the project on improvement of migration statistics as a component of a larger UN project named Youth Employability and Retention Programme (YERP). The project aimed at further improvements in collection, harmonization and exchange of data.
The current flow of administrative data about migration is presented above in Figure 1. As can be seen from the figure, a whole range of different institutions is involved in the collection of data about migration in BiH. However, the level of cooperation between institutions is not at the appropriate level to assure effective exchange and use of these data. The main source of data for international migration is the Information System on Migration (ISM), the central database owned by the BiH Ministry of Security (MoS). All data are delivered to the Ministry of Security where are collected, analyzed and processed for the purpose of monitoring migration flows and for the preparation of the Migration Profile of BiH.
The BiH Migration Profiles is at the moment the only statistical information on migration in BiH. The Profile includes a very limited statistical information on the emigration stock and flows (as the most important data for an emigration country, such as BiH), produced by the BiH Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees (MHRR). Therefore, improvements in the statistical reporting about migration in BiH, by considering use of the all available administrative data about migration, is the important task for BiH institutions in order to provide decision makers with correct and up-to-date information, as well as to comply with the requirements of EUROSTAT.


KEY CHALLENGES Administrative data within the ISM are in most cases already quite rich (include data about sex, age, citizenship, country of birth and previous residence, etc.) in most of the migration topics, with detailed information that allows disaggregation of data required by EUROSTAT, but are underutilized by the statistical system in BiH as well as by institutions collecting the data. In principle, the Statistical agencies of BiH could have access to these data by sending a request to the Ministry of Security, but due to the lack of systemic solution with regards to data exchange between administrative sources of data and statistical system in BiH (BHAS and entity statistics agencies), no data on international migration is currently available for the statistical agencies. Therefore, improving analytical capacities at ministries or providing appropriate data institutions that would then produce appropriate reports is necessary. Another rising issue is a different understanding of statistical terms between institutions and wider community. All statistical terms should be in line with the EU Regulation 862/2007. For example, EU Regulation 862/2007 defines ‘immigration’ as the “action by which a person establishes his or her usual residence in the territory of the country for a period that is, or is expected to be, of at least 12 months, having previously been usually resident in another country. This definition includes BiH citizens who spent more than 12 months outside BiH and are now returning. Similarly ‘emigration’ is defined as the “action by which a person, having previously been usually resident in the territory of the country, ceases to have his or her usual residence in that country for a period that is, or is expected to be, of at least 12 months”. Using such a definition, reports about emigration flows also encompass foreigners who spent more than a year in BiH and are now leaving the country. Such terms were found not to be understood and used in the same way by the wider community, which then causes incorrect interpretation of statistical reports by them. Consequently, development of a common statistical glossary of migration terms, accepted by a wider community (including researcher and media) is another important step in improvement of migration monitoring mechanism in BiH. Furthermore, the only available database about population in the country is the register maintained by the Agency for Identification Documents, Registers and Data Exchange of BiH (IDDEEA), but these data do not present the de facto situation in the country, as all emigrated BIH citizens for temporary stay abroad (that can last for years) are included in the population figure. The population stock figures requested by the EU Regulation 862/2007 of the European Commission on Community Statistics on Migration and International Protection should be based on the concept of ‘usual residence’ The differences between the IDDEEA figures on the permanent population (3.8 million) and the ones on the usual resident population estimated without those living abroad (around 3.4 million) are so big that all efforts should be developed in order to reach the objective of applying the concept of ‘usual residence’, justifying the argument for population register. This is a crucial point for any policy development regarding international migration in BiH. In particular, population register is an important precondition for development of a good quality emigration statistics. Another evident obstacle is a poor coverage of data on emigrants because only a small percentage of emigrants from BiH (according to some estimates, about 10% of actual emigrants, around 20,000 per year) declare their departure to the local administration and this information is available in the register maintained by the IDDEEA. Such data are not reflecting the actual situation of the migration in BIH and cannot be used for the future policies related to migration. A solution could be a design of incentives for de-registrations and re-registrations, which would improve coverage of these administrative data. Such a solution is used by other countries, such as Finland. The incentives are composed of a set of benefits that can be obtained as a result of registration, for example tax or customs exception for goods imported after (registered) return of nationals. Since people do not register their emigration because they wish to remain BiH citizens and keep their rights in BiH, necessary changes in legislation that would imply that the de-registration will not result in their deletion from the central database, but only addition of information about their current residence abroad, is strongly advised, particularly taking into account sensitivity of the issue in BiH. In addition, it is necessary to take the initiative to sign a protocol of cooperation for exchanging this information with countries that are the main destinations of BiH emigrants. Still, for BiH policies it is even more important to have detailed information about the stock of emigrants from BIH and their main demographic characteristics, such as age and education level. Therefore, the efforts should be made in not only improving national level administrative data, but also enriching surveys (e.g. Labor Force Survey, Household Budget Survey) by additional questions on emigration.
CONCLUSIONS The analysis presented above suggests that the migration monitoring system, although already being developed to a relatively good level, requires a set of additional steps to be taken in order to utilize currently collected administrative data about migration to its full potential. First, cooperation between different institutions should be improved, first by providing administrative data to statistical institutions, and then providing appropriate reports by statistical institutions to all institutions involved in development of migration related policies in BiH. Second, a population register, as a necessary precondition for development of any reliable migration statistics, needs to be discussed as an important task for a range of different institutions involved. Third, a glossary of migration terms used in statistical reporting needs to be developed and adopted by a wider community. Finally, the most important issue of lack of reliable data about (stock and flows) of emigration of BiH needs to be resolved, by using different alternatives discussed above, such as incentives for (de)registration and cooperation with statistical



This policy brief is a result of the project “Analysis of migration monitoring capacities of BiH” which is supported by the European Fund for the Balkans, a joint initiative of the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Compagnia di San Paolo, the ERSTE Foundation and the King Baudouin Foundation through “Think and Link – Regional Policy Programme”.