Hundreds of Bosnians took to the streets Sunday to protest against potential security and health risks posed by migrants sleeping rough in the western town of Bihac. While Bosnia was mostly spared from the migrant crisis of 2015, locals are not happy that they must care for migrants now.
Several hundred Bosnians protested against the large number of migrants in the western town of Bihac, saying the build-up must dissipate.
Around 6,000 migrants are in Bihac and Velika Kladusa, two towns bordering Croatia, but only about 3,500 have been sheltered in four transit centers there. Others sleep in parks and abandoned buildings.
"I came here to express dissatisfaction with the situation politicians have brought upon both us and migrants," Maja Tabakovic said at Sunday's rally. "The whole town is feeling insecure."
About 25,000 people from Asia and northern Africa entered Bosnia via Serbia and Montenegro in 2018, and about 9,000 have come into the country so far this year. This comes after Bosnia was mostly spared from the wave of migrants and refugees in 2015.
Many are trying to enter neighboring Croatia, which is a European Union member state. Bihac, which is just an hour's walk from the Croatian border, currently has about 6,000 migrants in the town of just over 60,000. Only 3,500 of those migrants are sheltered in the town's four transit stations, while the rest sleep in parks and abandoned buildings.
Looking for help
Local authorities have tried to call on the national government to lift the burden on the border area and accommodate migrants elsewhere in the country. But a national government has not been formed in over eight months after general elections. State ministries in charge of migration and asylum policies are working in a care-taking capacity, Reuters reports.
Bihac police raided several private homes and moved nearly 300 migrants into tents on a former garbage dump outside of town on Friday. UN agencies have warned against such relocations, saying the site was unsanitary, inadequate and near areas with landmines from Bosnia's war in the 1990s.
"There are no sanitary facilities available on the site and no access to running water or electricity. Under these circumstances, locating migrants and refugees there is not acceptable," UN agencies said in a joint statement.
"We are not against the migrants but we want them to be taken care of," said Husnija Midzic, one of the protesters in Bihac. "I fear robberies and problems caused by migrants. We are in fear all the time, watching our homes, ourselves."