Many migrants still stranded in Bosnia as freezing cold sets

According to humanitarian organizations, hundreds of migrants have slept in open or abandoned buildings in snow temperatures this month, as snow blanketed the mountains of northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some of the destroyed migrant camp dwellers have had to resort to washing themselves in the snow to lack warm facilities or barefoot linings to obtain food. Many people suffer from itching and high fever.

The mayor of the city of Bihak, 15 miles north of the camp, has refused to reopen a housing facility for EU-funded migrants, which operated for about two years until it was closed in the fall. Now, aid organizations and the military are splurging to provide humanitarian relief as temperatures have dropped below 15 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

“It is an indelible place. We are not talking about meeting basic humanitarian standards here, ”said Nicola Bay, Country Director of the Danish Refugee Council, which provided winter clothes and medical aid to migrants.

Extreme cold is simply the latest misery in a saga that has unfolded over the years, and which took a dark turn last month when humanitarian organizations had to destroy the Lipa camp after being deemed unsafe. As the migrants were evacuated, the fire destroyed most of the tents there, leaving them either sheltered in the destroyed camp or in the nearby abandoned buildings and icy wooded areas.

The European Union said this month that more than 1,700 people have slept outside under harsh conditions.

On New Year’s Eve, Bosnian authorities vowed to relocate the trapped migrants to a nearby housing facility in Bihák “very quickly.” But in two weeks 2021, the facility remained closed, and a minister in the Bosnian government admitted that it would probably remain so.

Bosnia has faced increasing criticism from the European Union and others for failing to provide basic humanitarian aid to migrants according to international law.

“Hundreds of people, including children, are sleeping outside on cold days in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenrich. “If adequate winter shelter capacity is built in the country using existing training, this humanitarian disaster can be avoided.”

As Bosnia has become a route for thousands hoping to reach Europe in 2018, the European Union has provided more than 89 million euros, or $ 108 million, to the country’s authorities or organizations, part of a larger strategy Working as. Migrants at its outer borders. (Bosnia is not part of the European Union, but it borders Croatia, which is.)

According to the United Nations’ Institute of Migration, the coronovirus epidemic has brought about a migrant movement, known as the Western Balkan Passage, and more than 8,000 migrants stranded in Bosnia. While 6,000 of them are in housing centers, around 2,000 live in heterogeneous conditions across the country.

Last year, in 2019, below 29,000, 17,000 migrants were recorded passing through Bosnia. But human rights organizations say the crisis has worsened this winter due to failure by authorities to accommodate them.

Migrants from northwestern Bosnia have faced increasing hostility from the local population.

In October, regional authorities, who have complained about the brunt of the EU’s migration problems over the years, have evicted more than 400 migrants from the now-closed housing facility in Bihak, and they have closed it. More than 80 minors were transferred to other housing centers but more than 300 men were left without any shelter.

Most of them moved to the Lipa camp, which was established in April as a temporary response to the Kovid-19 epidemic to accommodate 1,600 people. The camp was never untouched or equipped with a heating stove, and organizations say they told officials it could only be a temporary solution.

Then last month, it was demolished by fire and destroyed.

Across a dirt road from the former Lipa camp, Bosnian military forces have installed about 20 hot tents this week, half of which have icy winds, which cut according to Mr. Bay of the Danish Refugee Council. Still, hundreds of migrants have been accommodated in tents, which are managed by the Red Cross.

Nearly 1,500 other migrants have lived in the ruins of the former camp which burned in buildings that lasted for months or without electricity and water.

“On one end, the central government has tried to reopen the site in Bihák to accommodate migrants, and on the other, local authorities and the population have refused to let them in,” Peter Van der Auvert, the Western Balkans said. Coordinator of the International Organization for Migration. “Migrants are caught in the middle of it.”

Bosnia’s security minister, Selmo Cicotic, acknowledged that the situation was uncertain, and that migrants were victims of Bosnia’s political disorder.

According to the constitution of Bosnia, the central government and local administration, known as the canton, are responsible for enforcing human rights. But regulating the use of local land falls to the regional authorities, who also control the police forces.

“Cikotic said in a telephone interview,” There is a lack of solidarity from some elements of Bosnia’s political system, a lack of adherence to European and universal values, which we have declared to be close to ourselves. “” We have no working system to fix resistance from the authorities in Canton, “he added in connection with the Una-Sana area, the Lipa camp and Bihaq’s home.

Mr Siotic, who met with the ambassadors of European countries and representatives of the European Union at the Lipa camp on Thursday, ruled using force to open a housing facility in Bihak.

Human organizations are angry with this.

“Every year, we have a winter crisis and an emergency response is prepared at the last minute,” said Mr Bey of the Danish Refugee Council. “But this year, we don’t, and you see how fragile the situation is,” he said.

“They are asking, ‘When do I have to go to the camp?” He said about the migrants. “They have no idea what’s happening to them.”

On the Croatian side, police have tried to seal the route from Bosnia and humanitarian organizations have given countless abuses by law enforcement officials.

Alexander Panik, disaster preparedness coordinator for the Red Cross in Bosnia, said some migrants had given up hope of reaching the European Union through Croatia, and instead hoped to return to Serbia on the eastern border of Bosnia. European Union through Romania.

“Meanwhile, the camps in Sarajevo are full, and around the Lipa camp, the weather forecast is not going in our favor,” Mr. Panik said. “We do not know if we will be able to adequately heat the tents.”

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