Power of diversity: learning from each other

Another day passes by in the Temporary Reception Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina accommodating migrants and refugees who by fleeing conflict and poverty are seeking to rebuild their lives.

Migrants in Temporary Reception Centres in Una-Sana Canton, Sarajevo Canton and Herzegovina-Neretva Canton every day are offered with freshly prepared meals. In the kitchen of the Temporary Reception Centre Sedra, training has been organized for the cooks from Sedra and Miral on preparing updated and more culturally sensitive menus.

Zeeshan, a cook and interpreter, originally from Karachi, Pakistan who has been living and started his family in Bosnia and Herzegovina for more than a decade had a specific mission: to teach the cooks in these two reception centres new culinary skills.

His insight was very useful, from the ways to use ginger in meals preparation, tips on how to properly cook rice to sharing stories about how food is prepared and enjoyed in his home country, Pakistan.

„I never thought I would still be learning at my age. I have been working in this kitchen for 20 years. First when it used to be a hotel hosting tourists and now I am still here, cooking for the migrants“, said Suljo Čaušević, main chef and kitchen coordinator in the Red Cross kitchen in Temporary Reception Centre Sedra in Cazin Municipality.

We entered the kitchen just in time for the start of the lunch preparation. Dijana, Selma, Ferida and Vesna are the cooks that have been preparing meals to migrants in Sedra. On the menu: chicken biryani, traditional Indian and Pakistani dish made with chicken and basmati rice.

Food preparation in Temporary Reception Centres came a long way since Red Cross and IOM, with the support of the European Union established the kitchens. In the beginning, the meals were prepared based on the food traditions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but new spices and new dishes were introduced gradually to adapt the food to different migrant populations. By giving their feedback on the food, the migrants were given a chance to share their stories, which gives them a sense of worth and healing.

People on the move carry their culinary culture with them, enriching the places they visit and people they meet with their customs, flavours and food preparation methods.

“New dishes are good. Biryani reminds us about our home. New dish with vegetables is also tasty”, an unaccompanied minor from Pakistan expressed.

“Food now is much better than before.  Additional spices that are served is great idea, because a lot of people like spicy food and they can add as much as they want”, said a woman from Syria after additional spices in the dining hall have been introduced.

Change did not happen only in the centres. “Working in this kitchen has changed the ways I prepare food for my family as well”, cook Dijana said. “My children now want to put curry on everything”, she smiles showing us a photo of a meal prepared last night at her home for her family.

European Union supported preparation and distribution of 2,600,000 meals for migrants and refugees staying in Temporary Reception Centres in 2019. All meals are prepared and distributed in line with international standards that guarantee sufficient nutritional value and variety.

The project “EU Support to Migration and Border Management in Bosnia and Herzegovina” enabling accommodation and food supplies for migrants and refugees in BiH is funded by the European Union and implemented by the IOM in partnership with UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).