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Migrants warm up around a fire at camp "Lipa" in Bosnia Herzegovina after it was destroyed by fire and closed Migrants warm up around a fire at camp "Lipa" in Bosnia Herzegovina after it was destroyed by fire and closed 

Hundreds of migrants stranded in Bosnia in freezing weather

Hundreds of migrants and refugees in Bosnia remain stranded and roofless in freezing conditions in Bosnia after their tent camp burnt down and authorities have been unable to agree on an organized response to the emergency situation.

By Linda Bordoni

The almost 1,000 men, women and children, whose tent camp near Bosnia’s border with Croatia burnt down last week, are trying to warm in front of small fires as they wait for news regarding their destiny.  

The migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, including many from the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, were supposed to move on Tuesday from the Lipa camp in the northwest of the Balkan nation to a former army barracks in a town some 300 miles away.

Instead, they spent about 24 hours in buses, before being told to disembark on Wednesday afternoon and return to the empty camp.

The Lipa camp already lacked basic facilities such as running water and heating. But at least its inhabitants had some sort of shelter from the snow and the ice covering the ground, and from the freezing wind blowing from the Balkan mountain range.

Humanitarian disaster

As their relocation was being discussed by political authorities and cancelled amid protests by locals, aid agencies warned of a humanitarian disaster in the making.

European officials have been putting pressure on government authorities to move the migrants. They point out that the current impasse reflects confusion at a political level at handling the crisis.

Bosnia Herzegovina, a country that is still reeling from the fratricidal war in the 1990s, is also hard hit by the covid-19 pandemic and struggling to respond to an influx of thousands of people seeking to reach wealthy nations in western Europe by crossing from Bosnia to Croatia.

The head mufti of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, called on Wednesday for better treatment of the migrants, describing the situation as “shameful” for the country and the rest of Europe.

31 December 2020, 16:31