Migrants in burnt Bosnia camp wait for new tents in blizzard

AP International News

Migrants cook inside a makeshift shelter at the Lipa camp, outside Bihac, Bosnia, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. A fresh spate of snowy and very cold winter weather on has brought more misery for hundreds of migrants who have been stuck for days in a burnt out camp in northwest Bosnia waiting for heating and other facilities. (AP Photo/Kemal Softic)

BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A fresh spate of snowy and freezing winter weather on Friday brought more misery for hundreds of migrants and refugees who have been stuck for days in a burnt-out camp in northwest Bosnia while waiting for heating and other facilities.

Residents at the Lipa facility were trying to warm up around fires during a blizzard, as authorities rushed to equip some twenty new tents meant to accommodate them. Some of the migrants didn’t even wear socks or jackets as they waited to receive food parcels from aid groups.

“Many days go and I didn’t take a shower and we don’t have electricity,” said Mohammad Afsal, from Pakistan. “Please stand with us and help us, we are in a very, very bad condition!”

Bosnia has faced international criticism for leaving some 1,000 people without shelter after a fire engulfed the squalid Lipa camp near its northwest border with European Union member state Croatia last month.

Authorities first said they would move the camp residents to another location but this was canceled after local people organized protests. Bosnia’s armed forces last week put up the new tents but they apparently were still not fully ready for use when the weather worsened on Friday.

Peter Van der Auweraert, the head of International Organization for Migration in Bosnia, tweeted on Friday that fresh snowfall “underscores urgency” to get the Lipa migrants into a heated accommodation. He expressed hope this could start happening later on Friday.

Meanwhile, the migrants were staying in tents and containers amid the snow, while seeking shelter under make-shift nylon covers.

“It’s too cold, snow fell,” said Mohammad Jasar, from Pakistan. “We have too much trouble here in (the) Lipa camp.”

There are thousands of migrants in Bosnia who are trying to reach Western Europe. They are mostly concentrated in the northwest of the Balkan country, in the hope of crossing illegally into neighboring Croatia, from which it would be easier to travel on through other EU member-states.

Migrants have complained they often face pushbacks and violence at the hands of Croatia’s police.

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