Harsh weather conditions and tight police border controls have stopped thousands of people from attempting to cross into Croatia at the European Union’s Balkan frontier, leaving them in Bosnia until spring.
Over 3,000 migrants have been cramped in three improvised migrant centres in the Bosnian towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa, on the Croatian border, with emergency workers rushing to provide them with accommodation and food as winter bites.
A small refugee town has been set up in the giant concrete halls of a former factory, accommodating more than 2,000 migrants and refugees in heated tents and containers.
They have three meals a day and access to medical services.
The European Union has allocated more than €9.2m to help Bosnia cope with the migrant influx before the winter, channelling funding through the International Organization for Migration and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, officials told Reuters.
More than 23,000 people, mostly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, have entered the country since January.
About 5,000 are now stuck, as the cold winter and Croatian police make it impossible for them to continue their journey.
“This is inhuman, the life of the migrants,” said Wali Khan from Afghanistan, showing bruises on his hands that he said were inflicted by the Croatian police beating him with batons when he tried to cross the border earlier this week.
Croatia, the EU’s newest member, denies accusations its border police are rough handling would-be refugees.
While local authorities in northwestern Bosnia have limited new arrivals of migrants, saying there was no available accommodation, local people in Bihac, remembering their own plight as refugees during the 1990s, have tried to help, RTE reports.