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Bosnia: Police clear controversial Vucjak refugee camp

December 10, 2019

Several buses came to the squalid camp to move the hundreds of refugees following an international outcry. Bosnia along with Serbia has been experiencing an unexpected increase in migrant arrivals in recent months.

A police bus moves migrants in Bosnia
Image: picture-alliance/AP/K. Softic

Bosnian authorities said on Tuesday that they had moved 600 refugees from the squalor of the camp at Vucjak to a nearby army barracks. Journalists were not permitted to document the transfer, though they saw seven buses leaving the area near the Croatian border.

The camp, composed of a collection of tents pitched in the frozen mud and snow, became the subject of recent controversy when pictures emerged showing children still wearing sandals and t-shirts in the snow.

Read more:  Bosnia's Vucjak camp: Migrants, a garbage dump — and a road to nowhere

But international officials, most recently the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, have been calling on Bosnia to close the camp for months. Bosnia has further been criticized for housing so many people so close to an old minefield.

Migrant facilities along the "Balkan route" to Europe have once again become full due to an unexpected uptick in asylum seeker arrivalsin recent months. There are now between 7,000 and 8,000 refugees in Bosnia, most of whom have traveled through the border with Serbia. Most hope to cross into Croatia and thus into the European Union, but the border is fenced off and well-guarded.

Many who had been living in Vucjak had said to journalists that they feared being brought further away from the Croatian frontier, but there were no reports of incidents during the transfer.

More migrants crossing from Turkey

Due to the closing of Vucjak, refugees who had been housed at shelters in nearby Bihac will now stay where they are rather than be moved to other facilities.

Other asylum seekers have chosen to stay in Serbia, and instead live near that country's borders with Croatia and Hungary. Some 27,000 refugees entered Serbia between January and November 2019.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Serbia spokeswoman Mirjana Milenkovski said "the growing number of unaccompanied minors is especially troubling."

There seems to be no clear reason why so many more are coming, except, as some analysts point out, that more people are crossing from Turkey to Greece. Indeed, more people have arrived in Greece in 2019 than in any of the years since Turkey entered into an agreement with the EU in 2016 to try and stop the amount of people attempting the dangerous voyage.

es/msh (dpa, AP)