Sat, 16 Nov 2019

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Bosnia to relocate an overcrowded migrant camp which lacked running water and electricity and was situated close to a land-mined area, saying it was unsanitary and unsafe.

'The living conditions in this camp...are already deplorable...With winter coming, the situation cannot but worsen,' Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement on October 17.

Bosnia has been struggling with a rise in migrant arrivals since nearby European Union member states Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia sealed their borders against undocumented immigration.

More than 40,000 migrants have entered the Balkan country since 2018, of whom around 7,300 have settled in the northwest Bihac area hoping to cross into nearby Croatia and go on to the affluent north and west of the EU.

Nearly 20 percent of the migrants are children.

More than 1,000 of them have been taken to the Vucjak camp, built over a former landfill, close to the Croatian border where land mines remain from the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia.

Local authorities have repeatedly faced criticism from rights groups for the conditions at the Vucjak camp.

A video broadcast on October 16 by local media showed police taking migrants on foot in a long column toward the Vucjak camp near the city of Bihac, about 10 kilometers from the Croatian border.

Suhret Fazlic, the mayor of Bihac, has warned that his city can no longer cope with the thousands of people staying in the migrant camp, adding that his administration will cut off funds to the site next week to help draw attention to the crisis.

He accused the Bosnian Security Ministry of not taking the crisis seriously and of understating the number of migrants essentially trapped in the region.

The ministry 'says that there are 4,000 migrants in Bosnia, and I claim that there are more than 6,000 in Bihac alone. The city of Bihac has spent [about 50,000 euros] on the Vucjak camp. Nobody gave us anything,' Fazlic told a Sarajevo news conference on October 15.

The tent camp has no toilets, no running water, and no electricity, BalkanInsight reported.

In July, the EU pledged 14 million euros ($15.56 million) in aid for new shelters but the scheme has been held up by bickering among rival ethnic groups and anti-migrant rhetoric.

Mijatovic said all the migrants currently in Vucjak should be urgently relocated to facilities with adequate standards.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, AFP, AP, and BalkanInsight

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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