Bosnia and Herzegovina should urgently close a temporary migrant camp or people will “start to die” during the winter period, a European human rights official warned Tuesday (3 December).
The camp in the village of Vucjak near the Bihac region, which borders Croatia, was built by authorities in June and houses some 600 people in makeshift tents. There is no heating and overnight temperatures fall below zero degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).
“If we don’t close the camp today, tomorrow, people will start dying here”, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic told reporters while visiting the camp, a day after it began snowing in the area.
“Whose responsibility would that be? That is the question I ask everyone,” the Bosnia-born official added.
The camp, which is surrounded by land mines from the 1990s Bosnian war, has no running water, no electricity and putrid toilets. Every day, the Red Cross Bosnian branch provides one meal or two to the migrants.
The authorities regularly pick up migrants who roam around the town, due to the lack of places in reception centres run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The centres can accommodate around 3,500 people in the north western Bihac region.
Situated just across the border from EU member state Croatia, Bihac has become a key transit hub for migrants from the Middle East and Asia who are trying to reach western Europe.
“Being a Bosnian I am very upset. I think this is a shame for Bosnia. The conditions here are not for human beings,” said the commissioner, who will visit other camps across Bosnia and talk to the authorities this week.
“This camp should be shut down and these people should be housed in a warm place where they will get meals.
“This is unacceptable,” she added.
The authorities in Bosnia, an ethnically divided country with an exceptionally complex institutional system, cannot agree where to open a new migrant centre.
Certain proposals in the region of Bihac were rejected by the European Union which finances the IOM camps.
In the past two years more than 52,000 migrants have illegally entered Bosnia, security ministry official Slobodan Ujic said last month. Most of them went to western Europe.