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Homeless migrants: Odyssey in Bosnia-Hercegovina

Bradina is a village in Bosnia, about 45 minutes’ drive southwest of Sarajevo. It is not famous for anything, but at least notorious for something, even if the place cannot help it: Ante Pavelić was born in Bradina in 1889, the later Croatian fascist leader and mass murderer, who died in exile in Spain in 1959. In addition, at the beginning of the Bosnian War in May 1992, the village was the scene of a massacre in which several dozen Bosnian Serb civilians were murdered by Croatian and Muslim troops.

The burning Lipa camp on December 23rd.  Inmates started firing after it was announced that the camp would be evacuated.


The burning Lipa camp on December 23rd. Inmates started firing after it was announced that the camp would be evacuated.
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Bild: AP

Michael Martens

Michael Martens

Correspondent for Southeast European countries based in Vienna.

As of this week, there has been a third event related to the location: after it became known that the government in Sarajevo wanted to house a few hundred migrants in a barracks area in the village, people in Bradina took to the streets and protested. The foreigners will not be allowed to settle in their place, they said. Your threat must have been credible, because the government finally abandoned its plans. The migrants affected – mainly men from South Asia – have been wandering around in a country they don’t want.

Her odyssey began in the Lipa camp in the north-west of the country. It had been cleared a few days ago by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) because it was not considered winter-proof. In the course of the evacuation, some men set their tents on fire in the camp at an altitude of around 800 meters. Large parts of the camp were destroyed. The government in Sarajevo planned to house the migrants in a hall in the center of the nearby city of Bihać. Up to 2000 people could have found temporary accommodation there. But there was resistance in Bihać. People demonstrated. Not with us, was the slogan of the protests.

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An “open letter”, which Mustafa Ružnić, head of the government of the Una-Sana canton, in which Bihać is located, addressed to the government in Sarajevo, is indicative of the tone that has now also prevailed in Bosnia. In it he claimed that there were plans in the capital to arrest him and Šuhret Fazlić, the mayor of Bihać, who also speaks out against accepting migrants in his city. So the way should be cleared to settle the foreigners against the will of the population in the city. Mayor Fazlić had previously urged the Bosnian government to “resist the pressure of the European Union and the international community” and to refuse to accept migrants in the center of Bihać.

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