The EU is warning that a humanitarian crisis in Bosnia is "becoming a reality." It has called for urgent action by the authorities to save the lives of migrants and refugees in the coming winter.
Worsening weather conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are putting the lives of more than 3,000 people at risk, the EU delegation in the country has warned. In a statement on Wednesday it said over 2,000 migrants and refugees were currently sleeping outside in dire conditions, while 1,300 others were being housed in a temporary facility unsuitable for winter.
The weather in Lipa, where the temporary facility is located, was expected to reach a top of 3 degrees Celsius on Thursday, with temperatures dropping below zero overnight.
The UN migration agency’s representative in Bosnia warned last week that the Lipa camp would not be ready for winter and said alternatives needed to be found.
The EU statement said a humanitarian crisis was "becoming a reality," and blamed a lack of action by Bosnian authorities. "We urge the authorities to act with the utmost urgency to save lives," it said.
The situation with the coronavirus pandemic was making matters worse, it added.
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An online petition to the Council of the European Union, the Bosnian government and others launched last week by a resident of the Lipa camp says more than 1,000 people there are freezing and living in very bad conditions. "Please help us before someone will die from cold," it says.
'Bira camp ready to host migrants'
The EU statement said the authorities in Bosnia and Herzgovina should immediately relocate the refugees and migrants in Lipa to an EU-funded reception center in Bihac, which stands ready to host them. The migrants were evicted unlawfully at the end of September from the "Bira" center in Bihac, 26 kilometers northwest of Lipa, it said.
The delegation also urged the Bosnian authorities to fulfil their commitment to open a migrant reception center in Ciljuge, near the Serbian border in the east, to ensure shelter for those in need during winter.
"Solutions exist and the EU is ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in the necessary actions," the statement said, adding that the country has already received considerable funding and support from Europe to manage migration.
The Bosnian ministry of security said earlier this month that Bosnia and Herzegovina was hosting more than 6,600 migrants in reception facilities across the country.