Published On: Pet, pro 25th, 2020

After Camp Fire, Migrants and Refugees in Bosnia Fend for Themselves

Hundreds of migrants and refugees have spent the night in the open air after fire tore through the camp where they were staying in northwestern Bosnia, near the border with European Union member Croatia.

After a fire on Wednesday, some residents of the Lipa camp returned to its burned-out remains to take shelter overnight under the only remaining tent, while others set up in the surrounding forest or sought out abandoned buildings on the outskirts of the nearest town, Bihac.

“Most migrants spent the night under tents in the woods around Camp Lipa,” said Silvia Maraone of the aid NGO Ipsia.

Maraone told BIRN that the Danish Refugee Council, the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, the Red Cross and others were distributing food and other necessities, “but I don’t know how many they can reach.”

Migrants in front of the former Lipa camp are trying to warm themselves over fire, Photo: BIRN

 

A temporary home to some 1,300 migrants and refugees trying to reach Western Europe, Lipa was in the process of being closed down by the IOM, which had deemed it unsuitable for the winter.

Bosnian authorities had promised to upgrade facilities to cope with the cold weather but, after repeatedly delaying the closure, the IOM went ahead on Wednesday, only for an unidentified group of migrants to start setting fire to the tents.

Left without shelter, some migrants and refugees set off in small groups for Bihac, about 30 kilometres from Lipa, on Wednesday night but were stopped by police on the outskirts of the town.

Migrants in front of the former Lipa camp that was set on fire, Photo: BIRN

BiH’s security minister, Selmo Cikotic, said on Wednesday that, while Lipa was being readied for the winter, those staying there could be moved to the Bihac reception centre Bira, for years the largest such camp in Bosnia until it was closed by the local government in October.

Some residents of Bihać have been gathering for weeks in front of the Bira centre to prevent its reopening, backed by local authorities in the town who argue Bihac is bearing an unfair burden due to its proximity to the Croatian border that the migrants and refugees are trying to cross.

The United States embassy and the European Union delegation to Bosnia each issued statements on Wednesday urging authorities to reopen Bira.

“Unfortunately, the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to implement the relocation to Bira, which was emptied and remains unused despite the continued EU funding,” the EU said.

Migrant set up a tent in woods not far from the city of Bihac, Photo: Ipsia/Migrants

Migrants in front of the former camp Lipa, Photo: BIRN

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