Bosnia has been overwhelmed by the arrival of migrants heading toward Europe along the so-called Balkan route. Most migrants flock to the northwest section, which borders European Union member Croatia. This has led to tensions in the border area, with local authorities demanding that other parts of the country share the migrant burden and take in some of the more than 6,000 people staying in the area.
Doctors Without Borders warned that “people may die without adequate shelter and other basic services” in Bosnia, where many migrants are sleeping in makeshift shelters and abandoned homes. “Four official centers for migrants exist, but services are inadequate and tensions are high, leading most people to stay elsewhere,” the report added.
It singled out the improvised Vucjak refugee camp in northwestern Bosnia, describing it as a “dangerous and inhumane place” that does not meet minimum living standards. The camp is located on a landfill and next to a minefield from the 1992-95 Bosnian war. "People arrive at our clinic from Vucjak in flip flops, without socks or jackets, a lot of them suffering from respiratory infections and from skin diseases caused by the horrific living conditions,” said Nihal Osman, Doctors Without Borders’ deputy field coordinator. “It should be closed now."
While many Bosnians have expressed sympathy with the migrants because of their own war experience, many also have protested their presence and demanded that the migrants be moved or restricted to the refugee camps. Protesters in the northwestern city of Bihac demanded the closure of overcrowded refugee camps and the relocation of the migrants from the city area. They carried banners reading “Free Bihac!” and chanted anti-migrant slogans. Fadil Dizdarevic, who lives close to the Bira camp in Bihac, said “we want this to stop, we want them out of here.” At Friday’s protest outside the camp, another resident, Omer Demirovic, insisted that “we are demanding they be moved out of the city.” In a bid to pressure the central Bosnian government to relocate some of the migrants, the regional government vowed to fully restrict migrant movements at the two main camps beginning Friday.
The Bosnian Serb part of the country has refused to accept any migrants on its territory and has blocked efforts to deploy the army to stem the influx of migrants from Serbia. Many other Bosnian regions have also rejected hosting refugee centers.
A municipal official in Bihac, Ermic Zulic, said both Bosnia and the EU have failed to manage the migrant influx.
“The situation is out of control, the situation has escalated,” he complained. “They are telling us that even greater number of migrants will be pouring in next year, so we had to react.”