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Bosnia Opens Modern Migrant Camp After Outcry Over Humanitarian Crisis

The new migrant camp Lipa in Bosnia-Herzegovina
The new migrant camp Lipa in Bosnia-Herzegovina

A new migrant center capable of registering up to 1,500 people opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina on November 19, following heavy criticism about how the Balkan country treated asylum-seekers trying to reach the European Union.

The new, organized Lipa camp, in the northwestern Krajina region, replaces a makeshift camp destroyed in a fire last December, leaving hundreds of migrants in the cold, with no facilities, heat, or food.

The container-style facility is located in a remote area where authorities last fall had forcibly moved hundreds of people from overcrowded EU-funded, UN-run camps in surrounding town centers due to the resistance of the local population.

The new reception center provides housing, food, water, sanitation, and medical care in line with international standards.

“Eleven months ago, exactly, we were standing here, (in) the same location but completely different circumstances, in the middle of a humanitarian crisis,” Johann Sattler, the EU representative in Bosnia, said at the opening ceremony. “Today we are here in this new multi-purpose reception center.”

The project was funded by the EU with the help of individual European governments. It will be run by Bosnia’s Service for Foreigner Affairs with help from the International Organization for Migration, UN agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.

"I think that today we can say that the institutions of the state completely control the migrant situation. Until recently, this was done by international organizations," said Bosnian Minister of Security Selmo Cikotic.

Since Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, Bosnia has become a key route for migrants seeking to reach the European Union. At first, Bosnian authorities let migrants pass onto EU member Croatia, but Croatian authorities later sealed the border and reportedly resorted to pushbacks of migrants, leaving thousands of people stuck in Bosnia.

Many of the 84,000 migrants who have entered Bosnia since 2018 have been granted asylum in EU countries or repatriated home. Fewer than 3 percent requested asylum in Bosnia.

Some 3,000 migrants and refugees are currently stuck in Bosnia, compared to over 10,000 at the start of last year.

The European Commission's latest progress report in October on reforms in Bosnia said authorities had failed to establish an adequate migration and asylum system, leading to the humanitarian crisis in December 2020.

With reporting by AP and RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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