EU denounces conditions for migrants in Bosnia

Migrants Protest against poor living conditions at Camp Lipa in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1 January 2021. [Fehim Demir/EPA/EFE]

The living conditions of hundreds of homeless migrants in Bosnia, bordering the European Union, are “completely unacceptable”, EU envoy Johann Sattler said Saturday (2 January).

The migrants have been left homeless in freezing and rainy conditions since their camp near the northwestern town of Bihac burned down last month.

Migrants in limbo in Bosnia after camp fire

A thousand migrants from a burned-out camp were in limbo in Bosnia on Thursday (31 December), struggling with freezing temperatures and snow as efforts by local authorities to re-house them sparked protests from locals.

“The situation is completely unacceptable,” said Sattler, the EU’s Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Lives and basic human rights of many hundreds of people are seriously jeopardised,” he added after a meeting with Bosnia’s Security Minister Selmo Cikotic.

Fire engulfed the Lipa migrant centre in northwestern Bosnia on 23 December. There were no casualties from the blaze but much of the infrastructure of the site was destroyed.

The incident deepened the crisis over where to house thousands of migrants, as Bosnian authorities failed to find new accommodation for the newly homeless.

Police believe the blaze on 23 December was started deliberately by migrants living there to protest the withdrawal of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which had been running the camp.

Police blame residents for fire at Bosnia migrant centre

A fire at a migrant centre housing about 1,200 people in northwestern Bosnia on Wednesday (23 December) was probably set by migrants displeased with its temporary closure, police and a United Nations official said.

The IOM had left complaining that the accommodation was not fit to house people during the cold winter months.

Opened in April, the Lipa camp had never been hooked up with electricity or running water.

Sattler met Bosnian minister Cikotic on Saturday along with the German, Italian and Austrian ambassadors, according to a statement released by the EU delegation in Sarajevo.

The aim of the meeting was “to discuss urgent solutions for the extremely concerning migration situation,” the statement said.

Bosnia lies on the so-called Balkans route used since 2018 by tens of thousands of migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and in Africa.

The country currently hosts some 8,500 migrants.

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