Migrants waiting in line for food at camp 'Vucjak' in Bihac, Bosnia | PHOTO: ARCHIVE/EPA/Fehim Demir
Migrants waiting in line for food at camp 'Vucjak' in Bihac, Bosnia | PHOTO: ARCHIVE/EPA/Fehim Demir

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have warned that the conditions of migrants stuck on the border in Bosnia are worsening by the day. The organization says migrants there are forced to live in inhumane conditions and that they are reportedly subjected to violence by Croatian police when they try to cross the border.

The situation is getting worse for migrants and asylum seekers in Bosnia, stuck on the border in extremely poor conditions amid temperatures hovering around zero while living in tents, abandoned buildings, and makeshift shelters.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned of the situation in a statement issued on November 15. In the statement the organization noted that migrants, including children, say they have been subjected to violence by the Croatian police when they attempt the so-called "game," which is what they call their attempts to cross the border in to the EU. 

Difficulties in Bosnia 

MSF reports that about 20,000 people have arrived in Bosnia this year in the hope of continuing their journey northwards in order to seek protection in various EU countries. But ever more restrictive security measures along the Balkan borders; harsh living conditions aggravated by winter on its way and reported violent pushbacks from Croatia, make Bosnia one of the most difficult points on the migration route to Europe, the organization said. 

The organization tells the story of Khaan (not his real name) who arrived with 30 other people at a clinic in the village of Zavalje, where MSF provides medical assistance four times a week.

His experience is fairly typical, say MSF. "Two weeks ago I was in 'the game' – which is what we call it when we try to cross the border to Croatia," Khaan told MSF."But the Croatian police caught me and everyone in the group.They beat us up, they took our jackets, bags, phone, money and shoes. Then they sent us back to Velika Kladusa in Bosnia. In my group there were also children as young as 12. The police beat them also. This is what always happens."

Vucjak camp fails to meet humanitarian standards

"At night, with temperatures close to zero, almost 4,000 people try to sleep in abandoned buildings and makeshift shelters around the border cities of Bihac and Velika Kladusa or in tents in Vucjak camp. This camp was supposed to be a temporary solution, offered by the local authorities in an attempt to provide shelter to those left outside the official camps. But this camp fails to meet any humanitarian standards.Vucjak camp is also situated in an area littered with landmines, whose soil is contaminated with methane, a very flammable gas," the MSF statement said. 

A few weeks ago there were lots of rumors that the Vucjak camp would be shut down because it couldn't provide adequate accomodation for the people living there. However, "Despite these major drawbacks, on November 13, the authorities announced that the camp will stay as it is throughout the winter and will be used to house new arrivals,'' the MSF statement continued. 

"The situation is very hard here – I never had to sleep in a tent before," Muhallil (not his real name) from Pakistan told MSF. "At night the cold passes through the tent, and when it rains the water gets inside the tent. The food is really bad, the toilets are so dirty that we cannot use them, and the water for showers is freezing cold." 

"Vucjak camp is a dangerous and inhumane place – no human being should live like that," said Nihal Osman, MSF’s deputy field coordinator."People arrive at our clinic from Vucjak in flipflops, without socks or jackets, a lot of them suffering from respiratory infections and from skin diseases caused by the horrific living conditions. It’s heartbreaking to see and treat these people, knowing that at the end of the day they will have to go back to a tent and sleep on the floor. It is unacceptable to hear that this camp will remain open. It should be closed now," he added. 

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