Concern for migrants’ lives grows as weather worsens in Bosnia

As winter approaches, the weather is creating extreme living conditions for hundreds of migrants in makeshift camps. In Bosnia, near the border with Croatia, the weather could put migrants’ lives in danger, says the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). 

Across Vucjak camp, migrants live amongst mud and rubbish, and sleep in cold and cramped tents. “It’s like animal life here,” said a migrant from Pakistan, Amir.

Vujcak camp, built on a covered-up rubbish dump, is known amongst its residents as “the jungle” and is infamous among humanitarian organisations for its poor living standards. The surrounding area has unexploded landmines left over from the war in the 1990s. 

International organisations have called for the camp’s closure, which cannot happen until Bosnian authorities find a different location.

“Here, it is not possible to live. You can see that,” said Yemshir, a migrant from Pakistan living in Vucjak. “We need a good place, for life, sleeping, for eating, for drinking.”

On 12 November, European Union (EU) Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos added to the calls urging Bosnian officials to close the camp, which is located near the north western town of Bihac.

In order to “prevent a major humanitarian crisis in the coming winter” Avramopoulos warned that adequate shelter must be provided to migrants in Bosnia. 

Bosnia has received over EUR 36 million (USD 40 million) in aid from the EU, but the conditions at Vucjak are so poor that “no EU financial support can, or will be, provided for it,” said Avramopoulos.

The country has struggled to adequately provide for migrants, many of whom are stuck in the country since Slovakia, Croatia, and Hungary closed their borders. Around 50,000 migrants have passed through Bosnia toward the EU since 2018, sometimes waiting months for an opportunity to cross into Croatia where police have been accused of brutality toward migrants.  

Vujcak is one of the camps run by IOM and hosts almost 2,000 migrants. As of Friday 15 November, local authorities will not be letting in any more people into Vucjak camp.

TMP 22/11/2019

Photo credit: Ajdin Kamber

Photo Caption: Refugee and migrant camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina near Croatian border. Velika Kladusa. Balkan Route.