Soufyan Ali, a Pakistani living in the Lipa camp in northern Bosnia for the past three months, has sent an open letter to MEPs, urging them to act on behalf of asylum seekers trapped in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The association No Name Kitchen forwarded his letter to InfoMigrants.
After Alessandra Moretti, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), visited the Lipa camp near the town of Bihac in northern Bosnia on January 31, Soufyan Ali decided to write a letter to all members of the European Parliament to ask for their help.
Moretti, a member of the Democratic Party, met the Pakistani from the Kashmir region during this organized visit with three other MEPs from the same party.
She met Ali and asked him to tell her about the difficult living conditions faced by asylum seekers in Lipa. After this meeting, Ali decided to write an open letter to her that he hopes will be sent to all MEPs. His text was made public by the association No Name Kitchen, which supports migrants in northern Bosnia and documents police violence at the Croatian border.
His message is a straight cry for help. "We are refugees. We have no work. We have no rights. We have no dignity here. We need hope," he writes.
Ali, who has been living in the camp for three months, denounces in particular a "border protection" system where there is no "legal way to reach Europe" from Bosnia. "We are forced to try [to enter the EU] illegally. The goal for most migrants is to travel undetected to Croatia and then to Slovenia to reach Italy. Italy is the first country where the risk of being pushed back to Bosnia decreases," he adds.
Unsanitary living conditions
Ali describes the arduous living conditions of the asylum seekers in this camp. After it was destroyed by fire at the end of December, several hundred people lived for weeks in squalid conditions. Solutions to rehousing were blocked by politicians. In early January, heated tents were installed by the Bosnian Red Cross, but living conditions remain extremely precarious for the camp's 1,000 residents.
"There are only a dozen chemical toilets for over a thousand people. There is no running water for drinking. We often run out of water [...] There are only five showers in total, for all these people. The hot water does not reach the showers," Ali says in his letter.
The living conditions of migrants in Lipa are regularly denounced by NGOs and the European Union. Brussels has already called on the Sarajevo authorities several times to rebuild the camp to make it more habitable.
Trapped in this Balkan country, the exiles claim that they want above all to leave Bosnia to reach Western Europe. But the border with Croatia -- which also marks the entrance to the EU -- is extremely difficult to cross and push-backs from Croatia, Slovenia and even Italy to Bosnia are frequent.
Like some other 8,000 people stranded in Bosnia, Ali is also demanding the right to work. The best way to regain his dignity, he points out, is to buy his own food, for example. "We are young and fit men, we can work," Ali implores. "Being stuck here with nothing to do is making us sick."