Migrants from Bosnia camp kept in buses as relocation halted

Police officers stand by migrants as they leave to be relocated from the Lipa camp northwestern Bosnia, near the border with Croatia, Bosnia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. The European Union on Monday warned Bosnia that thousands of migrants face a winter without shelter, and it urged the country’s bickering political authorities to set aside their differences and take action. (AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Hundreds of migrants from a burned-out tent camp in northwest Bosnia on Wednesday remained packed in buses where they had spent the night after an attempt to relocate them failed, reflecting confusion in the Balkan country’s handling of the crisis.

Bosnian authorities sent buses on Tuesday to transfer the migrants from the much-criticized Lipa camp to an army barracks in central Bosnia. The mass move was canceled after local residents organized protests to prevent the relocation. On Wednesday morning and later in the day, migrants were still inside the buses, local media reported.

The Lipa camp near Bosnia’s border with Croatia was demolished in a fire last week and lacked basic facilities such as running water or heating. Some 1,000 migrants were stranded there for days during a spate of snowy and windy winter weather that followed the fire.

The situation has prompted EU officials and aid groups to warn of a looming humanitarian disaster and increased pressure on Bosnia to act to move the migrants away from the camp.

The troubled Balkan country that went through a devastating war in the 1990s has been struggling with the influx of thousands of people seeking to reach Western Europe. Bickering among Bosnia’s ethnically divided authorities has prevented an organized response to the crisis, leaving some 3,000 migrants sleeping rough or in makeshift tents.

The head mufti of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, called Wednesday for better treatment of migrants, describing the situation as “shameful” for both the country and the rest of Europe.

“We do not treat people in need in such a way,” he said in a statement.

Most migrants are staying in the northwest corner of Bosnia, where they hope to cross into European Union member Croatia before moving on toward wealthy EU nations. To get to Croatia, migrants use mountainous illegal routes and often face pushbacks and alleged violence at the hands of Croatia’s police.

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