Bosnia: Police evacuate squalid Vucjak migrant camp

Bosnian authorities began evacuating the notorious makeshift camp known as “Vucjak” on 10 December. The clearance comes after international organisations put pressure on the Bosnian government to relocate migrants from the squalid camp. The camp residents were transferred to new facilities set up in former military barracks near Sarajevo.

More than 600 migrants from different nationalities were living in harsh conditions in Vucjak, without water or electricity. The camp used to be a landfill and is close to a minefield from the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s.  

International organisations criticised Bosnia and urged authorities to close the camp, especially after photos of children wearing sandals and t-shirts in the snow went viral. 

The week before the camp closed, a representative from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, visited the camp and described it as “shameful and inhumane”. She said, “If we don’t close the camp today, tomorrow people will start dying here”.

Under heavy police protection, the migrants were relocated on seven buses. Authorities did not allow journalists to cover the transfer, and only Red Cross officials were present. Previous efforts to move the migrants to other shelters were unsuccessful as many migrants returned to the area to be closer to the border. 

“The most important thing is that they accepted to go there,” said Nermina Cemalovic, a local government representative. 

According to data from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Bosnia has received 23,000 migrants in the first ten months of 2019. Many allegedly sleep in the streets or empty houses because reception centres are full.  

There are an estimated 8,000 migrants still in Bosnia hoping to enter the EU by crossing into Croatia. Some of them may have remained near the area of Vucjak to avoid distancing themselves further from the border.

TMP 16/12/2019

Photo credit: Ajdin Kamber

Photo caption: Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina 30 Oct 2019: Refugee and migrant camp Vucjak. Site is located close to landmine infected areas and landfill. Croatian border is few kilometers away. Tents and people.