Migrants trying to reach Western Europe are living in “dangerously cold and harsh conditions” in Bosnia, a prominent human rights group warned on November 15 amid mounting tensions in the Balkan country over the influx of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group said that the improvised Vucjak refugee camp in northwestern Bosnia does not meet basic living standards, calling it a "dangerous and inhumane place."
The Vucjak camp, built in June on a former landfill, hosts around 2,000 people. It does not have electricity or running water, and tents housing migrants were erected on bare ground.
The European Union has given Bosnia more than 36 million euros ($40 million) in aid, but conditions at Vucjak are so bad that "no EU financial support can, or will be, provided for it," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on November 14.
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Most migrants have gathered in the northwestern part of Bosnia, which borders EU member Croatia, prompting local authorities to demand that other parts of the country share the migrant burden.
On November 14, Avramopoulos warned that colder weather could lead to a humanitarian crisis in Bosnia.
"We have raised with the [Bosnian] authorities the risk of a humanitarian crisis in the coming winter," Avramopoulos told the European Parliament.
He said that adequate accommodation must be provided for about 8,000 migrants in the country.
An estimated 50,000 migrants have crossed into Bosnia since last year putting additional pressure on the impoverished country. The government in Sarajevo, perpetually blocked by ethnic squabbling, has failed to act.
Authorities in northwestern Bosnia have threatened to impose a curfew on November 15 in other large local migrant camps -- the Bira and Miral camps in Bihac, and the camp in Velika Kladusa -- to press the central government to relocate people to other areas.
Those camps, hosting some 2,300 people, are run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and migrants there are officially registered as asylum seekers.
Local authorities said that starting November 15 they will not allow more migrants into the camps, while only those heading to the Croatian border will be allowed to leave.
The IOM warned that the decision could lead to worsening of the security situation and even prompt a pullout of international organizations from the area.