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Bosnia To Close Makeshift Migrant Camp, Some Refuse To Leave

A migrant washes his face at the Vucjak refugee camp on December 6.
A migrant washes his face at the Vucjak refugee camp on December 6.

The Bosnian government has said a makeshift tent camp in the northwest of the country would be closed within days, following harsh international criticism of the improper conditions hundreds of migrants are being kept in.

Aid groups have repeatedly cautioned that the makeshift camp is located on a former landfill and close to a minefield from Bosnia's 1992-95 war, and has no running water or toilets. Living conditions worsened further after snow fell this week.

Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic said on December 6 that the occupants of the Vucjak camp on the border with Croatia will be relocated to other camps outside the region.

"It was agreed that migrants would be moved early next week from this locality to other reception centers...and that this makeshift camp would be closed," the Security Ministry said in a statement.

The announcement comes after Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, visited Vucjak this week and warned that deaths would be imminent if the camp was not closed at once. "If we don't close the camp today, tomorrow people will start dying here," Mijatovic told reporters while visiting the snow-covered camp.

On December 6, Mijatovic told a news conference in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, that it is now urgent to relocate the migrants and provide them with "decent accommodation."

“Many people lack adequate clothing and footwear,'' she said. "It is inhumane and unacceptable to keep people in such conditions.''

Mijatovic also voiced concern about migrants' reports of violent pushbacks by Croatian police -- allegations that Zagreb has flatly denied.

"I was particularly alarmed by stories of migrants being beaten and stripped of their belongings, including their shoes, and forced to walk across rough terrain to return back to Bosnia and Herzegovina," Mijatovic said.

However, some migrants said that despite snow and freezing weather, they will refuse to be moved farther away from the border. Most migrants flocked to the northwestern part of Bosnia because they want to continue their journey to Western Europe's more prosperous countries by illegally passing through European Union member Croatia.

Bosnian authorities have struggled to accommodate thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Migrants come into Bosnia from neighboring Serbia or Montenegro.

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