Hundreds of refugees camp on a former garbage site along Bosnian-Croatian border

Vucjak was a garbage dump for the Bosnian city of Bihac for decades. Today, the site is a temporary camp for irregular migrants en route to Europe from Asia and the Middle East.

Thousands make the journey to Bosnia each year, in an effort to reach Europe by crossing the border into Croatia.

To make it more liveable, the city’s officials have covered the dump with soil, and flattened it. However, the grounds are reported to have a noticeable stench, no toilets, no showers, and no electricity.

At least 800 people now live there, according to a report by German news agency, DW. Bosnian authorities had moved irregular migrants there due to significant overcrowding in other camps in Bihac, close to the Croatian border.   

Local staff from the Red Cross said neither the government in Sarajevo nor international organisations are supporting them with funds to look after these migrants. They made a local appeal to residents in Bihac to donate whatever food they can.

Most of the camp’s residents are young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Smaller numbers come from India, Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territories. The irregular migrants say they have been en route for between 10 weeks to three years. Children as young as 12 years old also live in this camp. This, despite practices that say children should be housed in Camp Bira or one of the hotels where women and children are accommodated.

One Pakistani man said: “The police arrested me in town. When I showed my IOM card and said I was in Bira, they said if I say that again they will beat me. Then they brought me here. I don’t know why.”

Camp Bira is a former factory in Bihac, which houses between 1,700 to 2,100 people. News agencies and humanitarian groups say the living conditions in the camp is deplorable, due to overcrowding and lack of sanitation facilities.

Some migrants in Bihac have also been given a curfew. For instance, all residents of Camp Bira must also be in the camp between 10pm and 6am. If caught, they will be picked up by police and returned.

TMP – 23/07/2019

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Ajdin Kamber

Photo caption: Bihac, 7 July 2018. People standing in line and waiting for food in migrant shelter.