Migrants and refugees in Bosnian camps are becoming infected with COVID-19 at an increasing rate. Humanitarian workers say most cases are mild and the situation is "under control."
Sporadic cases of coronavirus infections among migrants have been reported since the start of the pandemic, but the current outbreak in the camps is the worst so far, and several facilities have been quarantined.
Over the past two weeks, 147 infections have been recorded in just one camp – more than half the total 265 infections recorded among migrants since the outbreak of the pandemic, the AP news agency reports.
There are more than 6,000 migrants in Bosnia who are waiting for a chance to cross the border into EU member state Croatia. Many are accommodated in official asylum centers but others are sleeping in abandoned houses or makeshift tent towns along the Croatian border.
Quarantine orders cause tensions
A number of migrants have objected to lockdown measures. Earlier this week around 50 people reportedly jumped the fences and fled one of the camps, in breach of quarantine.
Following the incident, local health authorities criticized the UN migration agency, IOM, which is running the camps, AP reported. "This should not have been allowed to happen," said regional health official Nermina Cemalovic. "We are concerned about a big number of migrants who are COVID-positive, who are outside the centers and whom we cannot monitor."
Bosnia has reported more than 7,000 COVID-19 deaths among its population of 3.3 million people – among the worst figures in Europe. However, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), which has been leading the response to the pandemic among migrants and refugees in Bosnia, said the situation is "under control," with new cases isolated and none in need of hospitalization.
DRC: Situation 'under control'
"Unavoidably, as the result of the general situation in the country, we have seen an increase in the number of cases at the reception centers," said Nicola Bay, Bosnia director for DRC. "However there has been a rapid response to this, the situation is under control."
Bosnia started its vaccination program relatively late, relying on donations from abroad and shipments via the COVAX international mechanism. Bay said almost all COVID-19 cases in the migrant camps are very mild or asymptomatic, AP reports.
"They don't normally require hospitalization or medical treatment,'' he said. “They are isolated at reception centers to prevent further spread, and attended to medically at the reception centers.”