Hundreds of refugees can stay in the burned-out Lipa refugee camp. The Bosnian army has started building new shelters. The residents spent the past few nights in the winter cold in the open air.
After the failed relocation of hundreds of refugees to permanent accommodation in the interior of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the people are now supposed to stay in the Lipa slum camp. Military personnel began building the shelters after the country was internationally criticized for its treatment of people. The military announced that around 150 soldiers had arrived and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) would take over the management of the tent site.
More than a week ago, the previous refugee camp near Lipa on the border with Croatia burned down. The IOM closed the camp 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Bihac a week and a half ago because the Bosnian authorities had not kept their promises to make it winterproof.
Laying fails because of residents
The Bosnian authorities wanted to move the people elsewhere to a former military facility near Sarajevo. However, this failed due to protests from local residents. The refugees ultimately spent 24 hours waiting in buses and were then taken back to the burned-out camp. For the past two nights, they lighted small fires to stay warm in the winter cold with almost no protection. Aid organizations provide them with makeshift food in the inhospitable area.
On Friday, the refugees organized a protest, according to human rights groups, to draw attention to the conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Hundreds of them refused to eat and called for international help on banners.
EU appeal remains unheard
The idea supported by the EU Commission to reopen the Bira camp in the local area of Bihac failed due to resistance from local politicians. Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson had appealed to the local authorities to provide housing for the people there. It is “the practical and immediate solution”. There is heating, electricity, running water and space for 1,500 people on site.
The European Union had already described the situation of refugees in Bosnia as “alarming” last week. According to its own statements, the international community has given the Balkan state around 85.5 million euros in aid to cope with the refugee situation since 2018. The Lipa camp was set up as temporary accommodation in April. At times around 1,500 people lived there. The camp was the last remaining refugee shelter in this region.
Thousands of people fleeing the Middle East, Africa and Asia are stranded in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Most of them are in the north-west of the country on the border with the EU country Croatia. Many migrants have reported that Croatian border guards forced them back and that the inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina were hostile to them.