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Migrants stranded at Bosnia camp after relocation fails

December 31, 2020

Plans to move hundreds of migrants from the fire-damaged Lipa camp to new accommodation stalled after protests from local residents. The failed transfer means they're now stranded in the cold with little shelter.

Migrants walk back to the Lipa camp
Plans to relocate the migrants to a former army barracks have failedImage: Kemal Softic/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hundreds of migrants in Bosnia were left out in the cold for another night as attempts to relocate them after a blaze destroyed their camp failed.

The migrants were supposed to be taken from the Lipa camp in northwestern Bosnia to a former army barracks in the central town of Konjic on Tuesday. But protests by the town's residents and disagreement among local authorities meant the migrants ended up spending about 24 hours in evacuation buses.  

On Wednesday afternoon they were eventually told to disembark and return to the now-empty camp.

"The buses are leaving the Lipa area and the migrants have been left behind," Nermin Kljajic, the Interior Ministry chief in Unsko-Sanska county, told news portal Klix.ba. 

Migrants left without shelter

Peter Van der Auweraert from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told DW that the EU was trying to find a solution, but stressed it was "local politicians at the end of the day who need to come together and decide where these migrants are going to be housed. It's only a local decision that can break the deadlock at this point in time."

He shared a video on Twitter of the migrants returning to Lipa, saying that they had "close to no shelter for the night" and that "last-minute political negotiations failed to produce a viable outcome.''

Fears of impending humanitarian crisis

The Lipa camp has repeatedly been criticized for its "inhumane" living conditions. It was opened as a temporary shelter for the summer months and was due to be shut this week for winter refurbishing. 

The IOM said last week that it was ceasing to run the camp in a bid to pressure the government to close it. A fire — allegedly started by the residents — then broke out at the site, destroying most of the tents. Since then, some 1,000 migrants at the camp have been left to face plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfall without running water and heating facilities.

The EU, which has supported Bosnia with €60 million ($73 million) to manage the crisis and pledged €25 million, has warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the country. 

Nearly 10,000 migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are stuck in Bosnia, with many seeking to cross the border into neighboring Croatia, an EU member.

dvv/nm (AP, dpa, Reuters)