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UN Agency Pushes Back Closure Deadline On Overfilled Bosnian Migrant Camp

The International Organization for Migration has criticized conditions at the Lipa migrant camp in Bosnia.

The UN's top agency on migration has further postponed, for at least two days, the closure of a major camp for thousands of migrants in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina where international watchdogs have warned that a humanitarian disaster is unfolding.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) told RFE/RL's Balkan Service on December 19 that a weekend deadline to shut down the Lipa reception facility was moved to December 21 after a request from the relevant Bosnian authorities.

It had already been moved back once.

There are estimated to be up to 10,000 migrants in Bosnia, a quarter of whom sleep rough in the woods, abandoned buildings, or by roadsides.

The IOM, which oversees all migrant facilities in Bosnia, stopped funding the Lipa facility earlier this month because it said authorities had failed to ensure the necessary conditions to make it suitable for winter.

Many migrants in Bosnia have been living rough rather than in reception camps. (file photo)
Many migrants in Bosnia have been living rough rather than in reception camps. (file photo)

In October, authorities 75 kilometers away in the town of Bihac closed a migrant center there and moved hundreds of people to the already full Lipa camp.

The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic warned in a letter to Bosnian officials on December 11 that a lack of action and coordination between the country's various governments risks having grave consequences for migrants and asylum seekers left without housing, food, and medical care.

Bosnia's Council of Ministers -- the executive branch of an ethnically divided governing structure imposed to stop an ethnically fueled war 25 years ago -- is responsible for a final decision on finding accommodation for around 1,200 migrants at the Lipa camp.

Bosnia has become a transit route for migrants and refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa since European Union countries shut their borders to new arrivals in 2015, but it has few resources to provide for the inflow.

Many have made their way to Bosnia's northwest hoping to cross into EU member Croatia to the west.