Bosnian authorities have begun relocating some migrants and refugees trapped in a burnt-out camp to heated tents, a UN migration agency said Friday as fresh snow and icy weather increased misery among people stranded in the Balkans as they tried to reach Western Europe.
Hundreds of residents of the Lipa camp tried to warm up during fires during a snowstorm at the facility in northwestern Bosnia when authorities rushed to equip about 20 new tents to accommodate them. A fire on December 23 cleared most of the camp.
The head of the International Organization for Migration in Bosnia, Peter Van der Auweraert, said on Twitter later Friday that some of the migrants would receive protection on Friday and the rest on Saturday.
Some of the people in the ruined camp did not have socks or jackets because they were waiting to receive food parcels from aid groups.
“Many days go by and I do not shower, and we do not have electricity,” said Mohammad Afsal, from Pakistan. “Please stand with us and help us. We are in a very, very bad condition! ”
Heated tents “too few” for migrants stranded in the burned Bosnia camp
Bosnia has come under international criticism for leaving some 1,000 people unprotected after the fire engulfed the unfortunate Lipa camp, which is near the border with EU member Croatia.
Authorities first said they would move camp residents to another location, but the transfer plan was suspended after local citizens organized protests.
Bosnia’s armed forces pitched the new tents last week, but the tent had apparently not been fully prepared to occupy when the weather worsened on Friday. People lived in small unheated tents and containers when the snow fell and tried to stay dry under nylon covers.
“It’s too cold,” said Mohammad Jasar, also from Pakistan. “We have too much trouble here in the Lipa camp.”
There are thousands of migrants in Bosnia trying to reach Western Europe. They are mostly concentrated in the north-western part of the Balkans in the hope of crossing illegally with neighboring Croatia, from where it would be easier to travel on to other EU member states.
Migrants have complained that they often face pushbacks and violence from Croatian police.