A migrant man lies on a bunk bed in the Temporary Reception Center Bira migrant shelter in Bihac, northwestern Bosnia | Photo: EPA/Zoltan Balogh
A migrant man lies on a bunk bed in the Temporary Reception Center Bira migrant shelter in Bihac, northwestern Bosnia | Photo: EPA/Zoltan Balogh

Operations have begun to close the migrant hosting center of Bira in Bihac, in north-western Bosnia, near the border with Croatia.

Operations began on Monday, September 7, to close the migrant hosting center of Bira in Bihac, in north-western Bosnia-Herzegovina near the border with Croatia. 
Regional media reports, published on Monday, quoted local officials as saying that the center's 500 guests will be moved to other facilities across the country, after the center reported a spike in migrants arriving through the Balkan route.

High tension in Bihac

Tension has been growing over the past few months in Bihac and in the nearby town of Velika Kladusa after the local population reported thefts and violence carried out by migrants, according to local news reports. Some 10,000 migrants are currently located in Bosnia-Herzegovina waiting in that country before attempts to cross the Croatian border in order to continue their journey to western Europe.

Bus stopped in Croatia

Meanwhile, further up the route in neighboring Croatia, local officials are trying to stop the flow of migrants arriving through the Balkan route. On Monday an overcrowded bus carrying nearly 100 migrants, mainly Afghans and Pakistanis, was stopped on the highway connecting Zagreb to Rijeka, according to Rijeka-daily Novi list.

The bus was traveling to Slovenia, a country that, contrary to Croatia, is part of the Schengen area, the report said. Once in the Schengen area, borders are open and it is easier to cross them without showing any kind of documentation. Croatian police reportedly arrested the driver, a 65-year-old Croatian citizen without a criminal record, on human smuggling charges. The man also did not have a bus driving license.

The suspect allegedly picked up the migrants in the nearby village of Donji Lapac, not far from the border with Bosnia, and was paid 5,000 euros for the journey, according to officials. When questioned by police, he reportedly claimed that he was supposed to drive 50 migrants but found 93 people waiting for him instead. He subsequently placed eight of them in the trunk while the others were instructed to pretend that they were tourists visiting Croatia.

The driver also told police that he accepted the job of transporting migrants without papers because he needed money urgently to buy a grave for a family member. The man is now in custody in Rijeka, officials said.
 

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