Several international humanitarian organisations issued a joint press statement on Wednesday urging BiH authorities to immediately find a solution for accommodating “at least 900 migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers who have been kept in dire humanitarian conditions and uncertainty” at the burnt-down Lipa tent camp in northwestern Bosnia.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Danish Refugee Council, Save the Children and Medecins du Monde called on “state, entity and local authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to uphold the principles enshrined in International Human Rights Law, ratified conventions – as well as national legal frameworks – and ensure safety and protection for people at risk by ending the current deadlock.”
Hundreds of migrants spent days without adequate shelter after the Lipa camp was shut down last Wednesday.
The IOM pulled out of the camp because the migrants staying there had no access to electricity, running water or sewage. The camp also did not provide shelter from the extreme weather conditions in the winter.
The Council of Ministers adopted a decision last week to turn the improvised tent camp into an official one that would provide adequate shelter and basic necessities to the migrants.
However, the migrants can not be there during the potential works in the camp, which are expected to last for months.
As the migrants were leaving, a fire broke out at Lipa and destroyed most of the tents.
State authorities first tried to relocate the migrants to the former migrant reception centre Bira in the nearby town of Bihac but local authorities opposed it and residents of the northwestern town started patrolling the area around the facility and said they would prevent the transfer of any migrants there.
On Tuesday, the Security Ministry tried to accommodate the migrants in a barracks in the southern village of Bradina, but this failed too due to resistance by local authorities.
The migrants spent the night in the buses and police returned them to Lipa on Wednesday.
“In the absence of any solution, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, have now been disembarked from buses and returned to the Lipa site – in freezing temperatures and with virtually no shelter on site. Forcing people once again to stay out in the open in these conditions cannot be an acceptable solution. The lack of immediate action by responsible authorities risks grave consequences to human safety and lives,” the joint statement said.
“The population of Bosnia and Herzegovina has shown solidarity with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers for the last three years, and provided indispensable support to those in need. However, the current absence of consensus among the authorities and the negative rhetoric risks further fueling xenophobia and stigmatization of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in BiH. The authorities must act responsibly and ensure safety for both local population and migrants and asylum seekers,” it said.
“Prompt actions are needed to end the impasse migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are now suffering the consequences of. Protection, safety and emergency humanitarian assistance must be provided to those in need as soon as possible,” the organisations said, adding that they will “continue providing humanitarian assistance to relieve the suffering of people, and reiterate their readiness to support the authorities’ efforts to provide assistance in a safe and dignified manner.”
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