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Migrants in Bihac City, Bosnia Migrants in Bihac City, Bosnia  (ANSA)

Bosnian army offering tents for desperate refugees

There is a glimmer of hope for at least hundreds of migrants who have been stuck in a burned-out refugee camp in Bosnia that has no facilities. The Bosnian military set up tents to fend freezing winter weather.

By Stefan J. Bos  

Some 1,000 migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty were hoping for shelter amid the biting Balkan winter. Bosnian authorities pledged this week to move these people from Lipa to a former army barracks in central Bosnia. But that plan was canceled after residents organized protests.

Desperate people, many from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, spent 24 hours in a convoy of buses, waiting to move. But they ended up back here in the burned-out Lipa refugee camp near Croatia, explains this man.

For the past two nights, they have lit fires to warm up at the muddy campsite. And on Friday, they held a brief protest against the horrendous circumstances. Aid groups say hundreds have rejected food and held up banners calling for international help.

The Bosnian army has now arrived. Some 150 soldiers place tents for the refugees, run by the International Organization for Migration.

Bosnia, which seeks membership of the European Union, was condemned by EU officials to abandon these people without necessary facilities such as running water or toilets.  

Authorities say, however, that Bosnia has struggled with the influx of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their countries in the Mideast, Africa, and Asia.

Migrants mostly flock to Bosnia’s northwestern corner, which borders European Union member Croatia, from where they hope to move toward wealthier and more welcoming EU nations.

But many have reported violent pushbacks by Croatian border forces as well as hostility from Bosnian residents. And as they face an uncertain future, frustration grows at the start of a New Year.

02 January 2021, 16:05