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Bosnia: Hundreds of migrants stuck at fire-gutted camp


media captionThe hundreds of migrants lack basic necessities

About 900 migrants from South Asia and other regions are struggling in bitter cold temperatures at a burned-out camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina after being denied proper shelter.

They remain at Lipa, a camp gutted by fire last week in the country’s north-west, amid a dispute over moving them to a military barracks.

Video showed them trekking through woods with their belongings after buses supposed to transfer them were blocked.

They had been hoping to reach Croatia.

A migrant from Pakistan called Zahur told Reuters TV they had spent “36 hours [in the] bus, waiting… Does Bosnia government [have] no solution?”

The video showed a line of stationary buses in open countryside with police cars blocking the road.

image copyrightAFP

image captionMigrants spent a night on buses waiting to be transferred but eventually returned to the destroyed camp

The EU and aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis as the migrants lack basic necessities, amid arguments between Bosnia’s central and local authorities.

A joint statement from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), Save the Children and other aid groups said “the buses never left the site, following a deadlock in decision-making processes at different levels of authorities, and local population protests”.

The Lipa emergency camp, near the town of Bihac, “lacked the most basic conditions for hosting people in winter”, the statement said.

After its closure last week “hundreds of people spent the following week in the open at the Lipa location, in freezing temperatures, without access to basic facilities”.

image copyrightReuters

image captionThe fire destroyed nearly all of the temporary camp’s infrastructure

Residents forced to leave Lipa, which was set up to provide temporary shelter during the Covid-19 pandemic, looted equipment and set fire to tents, police said last week.

The IOM said the blaze started minutes after the camp’s closure and almost 3,000 migrants were now in dire need of humanitarian aid near Bosnia’s border with EU member Croatia.

In recent years thousands of people, including refugees from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, have entered Bosnia hoping to get asylum in the EU by crossing into Croatia. However, many have been forced to remain in Bosnia.

The EU has given the Bosnian authorities €60m (£54m; $74m) to manage the crisis and pledged €25m more, but bureaucratic hurdles remain, Reuters reports.

More on the migrant crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

media captionInside Bosnia’s ‘nightmare’ camp for migrants trying to enter the EU

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