Bosnian soldiers put up the tents at the Lipa camp outside Bihac, Bosnia, Friday, January 1, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Kemal Softic)
Bosnian soldiers put up the tents at the Lipa camp outside Bihac, Bosnia, Friday, January 1, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

Bosnian authorities have reportedly delivered beds and mattresses to migrants stranded at the site of the destroyed Lipa camp. Pressure is mounting in Europe for urgent solutions to be found.

Tents erected a few days ago by the Bosnian military near the burnt-out Lipa migrant camp have now been fitted out with beds and mattresses, according to local media reports. Several hundred migrants and refugees who have been sleeping in the open in freezing cold weather are to be accommodated at the site. The beds and mattresses have come from the nearby camp on the outskirts of Bihac, which was shut in September following protests by local residents.

The Lipa camp near the Bosnian city of Bihac was closed by the UN migration agency IOM shortly before Christmas, because the Bosnian authorities had refused to make it fit for winter conditions. Reportedly, a few of the camp residents set fire to tents, making it uninhabitable.

An attempt by Bosnian authorities to transfer the migrants by bus to a former barracks in the country's south was abandoned because of opposition by residents, and the migrants were returned to the site of the camp.

They have been receiving food and non-food assistance, and some medical care, from the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and the IOM. However, the migrants' physical and mental health has continued to deteriorate, according to Peter Van de Auweraert, the Bosnian Chief of Mission for IOM.

German government demands better conditions for migrants

The German foreign ministry has called on Bosnia to provide better conditions for migrants. Bosnian authorities have agreed to take steps to improve conditions, German foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr said on Wednesday, adding that Germany would be keeping an eye on progress.

Adebahr said €700,000 in aid could be provided to Bosnia. The EU has already supported the Balkan country with an extra €3.5 million to cope with the current emergency situation. Since 2018 the EU has provided €88 million to Bosnia to deal with migrants in the country, according to the German government.

Tents of stranded refugees near Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 02, 2021 | Photo: Amar Mehic / Anadolu Agency
Tents of stranded refugees near Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 02, 2021 | Photo: Amar Mehic / Anadolu Agency

Calls for EU action

There are growing calls for the European Union to take action on the Bosnia situation. Germany's protestant church (EKD) representative for migration, Manfred Rekowski, said politicians should be doing more to help those in camps "on the edge of the EU."

Municipalities in Germany must finally be able to admit refugees, Rekowski said in a video message posted on Thursday, referring to offers by a number of German municipalities to take in migrants.

"The German Federal Government and the European Union have to ensure that refugees in Bosnia receive concrete help," he added. "We mustn't lose sight of the people, they have lost everything."

Migrants stand next to improvised tents at a makeshift camp in a forest outside Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, December 3, 2020 | Photo: Joan Giralt / AP Photo / picture-alliance
Migrants stand next to improvised tents at a makeshift camp in a forest outside Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, December 3, 2020 | Photo: Joan Giralt / AP Photo / picture-alliance

'Bring migrants to EU', rights group

The rights organization Pro Asyl has again urged the European Union to come to the aid of migrants at Lipa. "The people must be evacuated, they have to be brought to the European Union," said the head of Pro Asyl’s Europe section, Karl Kopp, in an online interview with German newspaper taz on Wednesday.

Kopp demanded that Germany take the lead on the issue, saying Berlin should set rapid rescue measures in motion in cooperation with new EU Council President Portugal.

"The European Union and the member states that forcibly closed the Balkans route in 2016 and at the same time initiated the Turkey deal with (Turkish President) Erdogan are helping to ensure that there is misery on the Greek islands and in the Balkans today," Kopp said.

"The cynical attitude of the EU that says: 'we give some money and then the people should stay there', is wrong and unrealistic."

Kopp said the survival of around 1,700 people at Lipa is hanging in the balance. There are currently 8,000 to 10,000 people stranded in Bosnia, the least stable country in the Balkans, he said.

"They are stuck there because they are violently pushed back by Croatia at the EU's external borders, contrary to international law," said Kopp.

He accused the EU and Germany of remaining silent about the constant human rights violations by Croatia.

With KNA, dpa, epd

 

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