Harsh weather conditions, poor hosting facilities and the constant relocation of migrants could lead to a humanitarian disaster for migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy's Catholic charity Caritas has warned.
Italy's Catholic charity Caritas on January 4 said in a statement that the precarious situation of migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina could deteriorate, creating a "possible humanitarian catastrophe" that could lead to violence and social tension.
"The already precarious situation of migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina risks to further deteriorate due to both worsening weather conditions and to continuous transfers from one refugee camp to the other, in facilities lacking basic conditions for a dignified survival," Italy's Caritas wrote in the statement.
''The outcome is a likely humanitarian catastrophe which could also lead to violence and grave social tensions."
The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the charity went on to say, "brings everybody's attention back to the Balkan route, which starts in Greece and ends in Italy or Austria."
Along the route, "thousands of people are stranded in various refugee camps and in other inadequate facilities, with many migrants in transit quarantined in prohibitive conditions due to the health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic."
8,000 migrants travelling along the Balkan route
According to data provided by authorities, at least 8,000 migrants are travelling along the Balkan route in Bosnia Herzegovina in an attempt to reach western European countries.
An estimated 3,000 of them are waiting in the north-west of the country in an attempt to cross into Croatia to continue their trip to the west. They are out in the cold and snow, with inadequate shoes and clothes in the harsh winter, sleeping in the woods or in makeshift shelters, without services and with little food, in part aided by NGOs and humanitarian organizations.
Immediate institutional initiative necessary, charity says
"An immediate institutional initiative is necessary, providing adequate hosting facilities that can at least give shelter to those risking their lives," the statement continued.
"Until 2015, the Italian Caritas was present along the Balkan route beside migrants and to support local Caritas" groups in Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia "which are offering support to these people, with hosting services, psycho-social support, protection for children, hygiene services, the distribution of food and necessary goods for tens of thousands of people."
"Over the past weeks, thanks to the contribution of CEI (the Italian bishops' conference) and a donation by Pope Francis, Caritas Italy and Caritas Bosnia-Herzegovina could start new services in transit camps in the area of Bihac and Sarajevo, as well as distribute winter accessories (scarves, gloves, hats and shoes) to over 1,500 guests of the camps," concluded the statement.