“Unfortunately I learned to live like an animal”
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The situation of hundreds of migrants after the evacuation of the Lipa camp in Bosnia is dire. The attempt to move them to another place failed due to a protest from local residents. The EU Commission is now appealing to the local authorities to give people shelter.
NAfter the fire in the former refugee camp in northwestern Bosnia, the situation remains unclear for thousands of people. The refugees suffered from freezing temperatures and snow on Thursday, a reporter from the AFP news agency reported. An attempt by the authorities to find new accommodation for the residents of the camp failed due to protests by Bosnian residents.
On Tuesday, the authorities tried to bus the refugees to a former barracks in the south of the country. However, the refugees could not leave the buses at their destination, as residents protested their arrival there.
After spending a day and night on the buses, the refugees were taken back to the burned down camp near the north-west Bosnian community of Lipa. “Unfortunately I learned to live like an animal,” said the 35-year-old refugee Nuha. “I don’t care whether they take us elsewhere or leave us here,” he added.
The EU Commission appealed to the local authorities to give the people shelter. “It is clear that the practical and immediate solution is to reopen the reception center in Bira,” said Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson in Brussels on Thursday.
There is heating, electricity, running water and space for 1,500 people. The EU has already given financial support and promised more. Johansson explained that this could alleviate the plight of people stranded in the snow.
The former camp near Lipa was destroyed by a major fire about a week ago. The camp’s infrastructure was completely destroyed by the flames.
Fire in protest?
The police believe that former residents set fire to the camp to protest a decision by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The camp closed the day before Christmas because it was not adequately supplied with electricity, water and heating.
The Council of Ministers of Bosnia-Herzegovina confirmed on Thursday morning that in its view the reopening of the center in Bira on the outskirts of Bihac was the preferred solution, said EU Interior Commissioner Johansson. “We call on the national and local authorities in Bosnia to work together to give these people the shelter they deserve,” she added.
Bihac and the canton Una-Sana are close to the border with the EU state Croatia. Many refugees and migrants are drawn there in the hope of entering the European Union.
The Lipa camp was set up as temporary accommodation in April. There is no longer any other regular accommodation for the refugees in this area. The police expected to move to the Bihac region, where about 2,000 other refugees are already living in abandoned buildings.
The European Union described the situation of refugees in Bosnia as “alarming” last week. Since 2018, the EU has paid the Balkan state a total of around 85.5 million euros in aid to cope with the refugee situation.