Thousands of migrants require humanitarian assistance in Bosnia, aid agency said

Thousands of migrants from Asia and North Africa are sleeping rough in parks and abandoned buildings, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on 30 May 2019. The aid agency added that some have died due to the poor conditions, while others have committed suicide.

“People are sleeping in parks, in car parks, on the footpath, and in dangerous buildings,” Indira Kulenovic, operations manager for the IFRC said. “The situation is dire.”

Bosnia has seen a rise in the number of migrants transiting, due to stricter border control along the route to north-western Europe through Serbia and Hungary. About 25,000 people from Asia and North Africa are reported to have entered Bosnia from Serbia and Montenegro in 2018. Another 6,000 have arrived in 2019, according to Bosnian authorities.

“We are extremely concerned for people on the move in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Kulenovic said. “They are arriving in poor condition, and many, including children, have walked for weeks. They are hungry, exhausted, sick and cold and traumatized by their journeys. The recent wet weather has just made their journeys worse.”

As the border with Croatia also tightens, large numbers are now stuck in makeshift camps in Bosnia. Most are concentrated in the western towns of Bihac and Velika and overstretching the towns’ limited resources. Authorities are now requesting that transit and reception centres are set up in other parts of the country so migrants can be moved elsewhere.

The overcrowded conditions is an added challenge to maintaining a decent level of hygiene. Infectious diseases have increased, with 800 cases of scabies in Bihac transit centres, said the Minister of Health on 15 May 2019. Accidents and psychological distress are also more common in such environments.

“A few weeks ago, three migrants sheltering in an abandoned building burned to death when a candle they were using caused a fire. Soon after, another fell from the top floor of a building he was sheltering in. Psychological stress among migrants is high – just last week one man set himself on fire in desperation,” Kulenovic said.

The Red Cross is working in five migrant centres across the country, providing meals for 3,000 people a day, as well as clothing, bedding, tents and first aid.

TMP – 08/06/2019

Photo credit: Michele Luppi/Shutterstock

Photo caption: Borici refugees camp is one of the camps in Bihac on the Bosnia-Croatia border