Being 17 and on the move

Children and teenagers transit through Bosnia and Herzegovina on their way to Western Europe

A card made by participant at group session in TRC Sedra, August 2020
13 October 2020

Ebad*, a 17-year-old boy from Iran, has been on the move with his parents and younger sister for three years. The family left Teheran in 2017, stayed in Turkey, then Serbia and arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina last year. 

The family currently lives in Sedra Temporary Reception Center (TRC). Sedra is located in the Cazin municipality and accommodates families and unaccompanied children. According to Ebad, Sedra is a good place because it offers activities and things to do during the day. Many of his friends that he met in Sedra have already left and he misses them, but they keep in touch. 

Ebad enjoys modern music, movies, and sports. Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Sia are his favourite artists. He aspires to reach Canada and become a fashion photographer. He fancies Vancouver for its modern skyline, tall buildings, business culture and aesthetics. 

Ebad comes down as a typical boy of his generation until he starts speaking about the past and the „game“ – as the migrants call the attempts to cross the border with Croatia - and the hopes to go further and reach a place where he and his family could have a better life. 

The family has tried to cross the border more than 10 times, but always unsuccessfully. During every attempt, they faced different dangers and distresses: the most difficult time was when they were forced to spend 10 days in the woods. The maltreatment by the police, the prejudices the migrants face at every step and the scorning attitude of the local population is what hurts him the most. 

Group session in TRC Sedra “What to hold on and what to let go”, August 2020
Group session in TRC Sedra “What to hold on and what to let go”, August 2020

“I don’t understand how people in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, who lived through war and know what it means to lose everything, can be so hostile towards people like us just because we are migrants. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned here is: Do not trust anyone.”, 

Ebad regularly participates in group sessions organized for children in Sedra. He enjoys the possibility of socialization, creative work, and discussions about different topics about everyday life and mental health issues. 

In partnership with UNICEF, with the financial support of the Health Programme of European Union, Médecins du Monde Belgium (MdM) provides psychosocial support to migrant children and refugees in four Una Sana Canton centres through the project „Provision of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for unaccompanied and separated children and children with families”. 

Group sessions are adjusted to the composition of participants, minding age, previous involvement in MdM activities, interests, etc. For younger children, the entry point is usually approached through games and creative activities. In some cases, underlying mental health problems are detected during group sessions and the psychologists introduce the suggestion of individual therapy with a sensitive approach.

Young people (children and minors) make around 10-15 % of the whole migrant population registered in centres. Currently, there are around 460 unaccompanied and separated children and 430 children with families in BiH TRCs. 


* Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy and safety of children