Migrants leaving from the burnt camp of Lipa in Bihac, Bosnia. A fire destroyed most of the camp in late December | Photo:ARCHIVE/EPA/FEHIM DEMIR
Migrants leaving from the burnt camp of Lipa in Bihac, Bosnia. A fire destroyed most of the camp in late December | Photo:ARCHIVE/EPA/FEHIM DEMIR

Bosnian Premier Zoran Tegeltija has said that Bosnia-Herzegovina can't handle the migrant crisis on its own. The country needs support from the European Union, not just financially, he said in an interview published on January 15.

Bosnia-Herzegovina can't solve the problem of migrants on its own, the country's premier told a local newspaper on January 15.

The country needs help from the EU, not only financially but also, for example, by identifying people "of interest" for security, Bosnian Premier Zoran Tegeltija was quoted as saying by the newspaper of Banja Luka, EuroBlic.

Tegeltija said Bosnia is carrying a heavy burden, blaming the EU and others for the migration crisis. "The number of migrants in proportion to the number of residents is significantly higher compared to other countries," he observed, adding that "it is not just a humanitarian crisis or a matter of good will."

The premier, an ethnic Serb, said that "eastern borders are open on one side, including those of EU member countries, that in practice let migrants go through Bosnia undisturbed, and then simply close the borders between Bosnia and Croatia, creating many obstacles to stop migrants from continuing" their trip to the West.

Croatian police brutality against migrants has been repeatedly documented by several international organizations but Zagreb has always denied abuse.

Difficult to control large numbers

According to official documents published by media outlets, Croatian police in two years has illegally transferred to Bosnia some 15,000 migrants.

Under readmission accords, in 2020 Italy sent back to Slovenia 1,116 migrants.

These migrants, together with 8,800 others -- for a total of 9,950 people -- were then sent by Slovenia to Croatia, where authorities lost track of them.

At the same time, Croatia legally sent back to Bosnia only 208 migrants, under a readmission agreement, who were reported to have entered Croatian territory illegally. The other refugees are believed to have been transferred to Bosnia illegally.

Accommodation in Bosnia

According to Tegeltija, once renovation work has been completed at the hosting center of Lipa, which is entirely managed by local authorities, all migrants will be provided with accommodation in Bosnia, unless their number increases significantly, in which case authorities would be unable to control them.

The premier recalled that, since the beginning of the crisis, the Republika Srpska (RS, the Serb majority entity of Bosnia) has stated that it does not want migrants on its territory while institutions representing the BH Federation (Muslim-Croat majority entity) have been sending messages likening migrants to tourists in transit.

He went on to say that the council of ministers will therefore try to implement policies that are a compromise between the two entities, if such a compromise is possible. The RS, however, has not changed its stance, the Serbian member and rotating president of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, recently told EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Dodik also recalled that, so far, EU aid has mainly been provided to international organizations and not to local Bosnian institutions.


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