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Migrants Transferred In Bosnia After Hours-Long Standoff


Migrants carry their belongings as they board buses during the evacuation of a makeshift camp in a park across from the City Hall in Sarajevo on May 18.
Migrants carry their belongings as they board buses during the evacuation of a makeshift camp in a park across from the City Hall in Sarajevo on May 18.

Buses carrying 270 refugees and migrants from Sarajevo reached an asylum center in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina after an hours-long standoff between regional and national authorities in the multiethnic Balkan state.

More than 4,000 migrants have entered Bosnia this year after traffickers opened a route through Greece to Western Europe via Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia.

The migrants had been staying in an improvised camp in a park in Sarajevo, but authorities ordered them to be moved to a refugee center in Salakovac, near Mostar, some 100 kilometers south of the Bosnian capital.

Hundreds of migrants, mainly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, and North Africa, had camped in the park for nearly two months.

The buses were stopped by police in Herzegovina-Neretva, a canton dominated by ethnic Croats, where officials said they were not informed about the decision.

The buses were returned toward Sarajevo canton where Sarajevo cantonal police arrived. The border between the cantons is a tunnel, where Sarajevo police are stationed at one end and Bosnian Croat police at the other end.

The buses waited for nearly five hours, held up in the Mount Ivan area some 40 kilometers outside Sarajevo, before being allowed to continue their journey.

The permission was finally given after Security Minister Dragan Mektic labelled the blockade "illegal" and called for the arrest of the district police commander.

Bosnia consists of two autonomous entities -- the Muslim-Croat Federation whose population is made up of Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats, and Republika Srpska, where Orthodox Serbs are a majority.

Bosnia has 14 police agencies. One operates at the national level and two at the levels of the country's two autonomous regions. Ten federal cantons have a police force and the northern Brcko district also has one.

More than 1 million migrants crossed into Europe from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa in 2015 causing a crisis for the European Union but relatively few went through Bosnia.

Bosnia has said it does not have the means to handle a major migrant crisis with its leaders calling for both financial and technical aid from the European Union and the United Nations to handle the influx.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on May 18 that it would do "everything to protect its border and prevent any attempts of illegal border crossings."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, AP, Reuters, AFP, and Balkan Insight
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