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Migrants walk in harsh winter condititions near the Bosnian town of Lipa Migrants walk in harsh winter condititions near the Bosnian town of Lipa  (AFP or licensors)

Caritas sends firewood to help migrants stuck in Bosnian blizzard

As around one thousand migrants languish without adequate shelter in a blizzard in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Caritas launches a fundraiser to help them procure firewood to ward off freezing temperatures.

By Devin Watkins

Authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina are working to move nearly one thousand asylum-seekers into heated tents, as harsh winter weather bears down on them near the Croatian border.

They have been stranded without proper shelter after their refugee camp near the Bosnian town of Lipa burnt to the ground on 23 December.

Peter Van der Auweraert, the head of the UN’s International Organization for Migration in Bosnia, took to Twitter on Friday to announce they would soon receive heated tents.

The migrants—all men who mostly hail from Pakistan and Afghanistan—will still remain without running water, electricity, and toilets.

Many also lack proper winter clothing, and currently only receive one meal a day from the Red Cross.

Wood for warmth

In response to this harsh situation, several Caritas outfits in Italy have teamed up to collect funds in order to provide firewood to help them keep warm.

Caritas Ambrosiana and Caritas Italy, as well as a number of local offices of the Church’s humanitarian arm, banded together to send 6 trucks full of wood to Lipa.

Others will follow in the coming weeks to get them through the worst of the Balkan winter.

Seeking survival

“This is not a solution to the problem,” says the Director of Caritas Ambrosiana, Luciano Gualzetti, “but it is currently the only thing we can do to help these people to at least survive.”

The aid organization has worked since 2015 to assist migrants who journey along the Balkan route toward European Union nations.

Caritas has set up emergency programs to distribute food aid, as well as medium-term solutions, such as soup kitchens, and organized teams of qualified personnel to assist migrants through counseling.

Squalid conditions

Bosnian army personnel, meanwhile, had set up temporary small, unheated tents and containers for the migrants after the Lipa camp burned down.

Plans were in place to provide heated tents, but they were not ready by the time the blizzard hit on Friday.

Witnesses say they saw some migrants standing in line for food parcels without socks or jackets.

One man told the Associated Press that many days have passed since he last took a shower.

“Please stand with us and help us,” said Mohammad Afsal, from Pakistan. “We are in a very, very bad condition!”

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09 January 2021, 15:49