SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) —
The European Union has threatened to reconsider helping Bosnia to provide for thousands of migrants stuck in its territory over the Balkan country’s failure to take responsibility of the already established EU-funded reception centers.
The warning has been delivered on in a sharply worded letter sent on behalf of the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, to the governor of Bosnia’s northwestern Krajina region, where most migrants who enter the country end up.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, expects the authorities in Bosnia to respect the rule of law and human rights, said the letter made available to The Associated Press.
“Should this not be the case, the Commission will reconsider its assistance in the area of migration management,” that Bosnia has been benefiting from so far, warned the letter dated June 12.
The EU has so far provided Bosnia with 60 million euros in emergency funding, most notably for six migrant centers which currently house over 6,000 people. Up to 1,500 others are estimated to be sleeping rough in several cities in northwestern Krajina region bordering the EU-member Croatia.
Bosnian-Croatian border remains one of the main gateways to northern Europe since other governments in the region closed off other established paths in late 2017. Still deeply scarred by a brutal inter-ethnic war in the 1990s, Bosnia has thus reluctantly become the chief bottleneck in the main land route for thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa seeking a better life in Europe.
For all of 2017, Bosnia has registered just 755 migrant arrivals. In 2019, that figure rose to over 29,000.
Bosnia has repeatedly promised to identify additional suitable public properties for temporary accommodation of migrants, the letter said, but the local authorities in Krajina region have instead recently begun “threatening to close down (existing) reception centers, obstructing the work of our humanitarian partners and forcibly relocation vulnerable persons.”
“Such worrying developments raise very serious concerns with regard to the respect of the rule of law and human rights,” it added.
Krajina governor Mustafa Ruznic insisted that the migrant camps should be closed.
He told the AP on Wednesday that his primary responsibility is to “protect safety of our citizens.” Krajina “cannot and will not continue to carry the entire burden of the migration crisis,” he said.