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Bosnian Police Round Up Migrants, Move Them To Controversial Camp As Winter Nears


Police escort migrants from a temporary camp near Bihac on October 15.

Police in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina have rounded up hundreds of migrants living in abandoned buildings and public spaces and moved them to a temporary refugee camp as the authorities warned of a looming humanitarian crisis with winter approaching.

A video broadcast on October 16 by local media shows police taking migrants on foot in a long column toward the Vucjak migrant camp near the city of Bihac, about 10 kilometers from the Croatian border.

Migrants heading to Western Europe often choose to enter through Bosnia before crossing into EU-member Croatia as they head further west. Most migrants in Bosnia are concentrated in two northwestern towns, Bihac and Velika Kladusa, close to the 1,000-kilometer-long border with Croatia.

Local authorities have faced criticism from rights groups for the conditions at the Vucjak camp itself, which is located on a former landfill and near an area infested with land mines leftover from the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Suhret Fazlic, the mayor of Bihac, has warned that his city can no longer cope with the thousands of people staying in the migrant camp, adding that his administration will cut off funds to the site next week to help draw attention to the crisis.

He accused the Bosnian Security Ministry of not taking the crisis seriously and of understating the number of migrants essentially trapped in the region.

The ministry "says that there are 4,000 migrants in Bosnia, and I claim that there are more than 6,000 in Bihac alone. The city of Bihac has spent [about $50,000] on the Vucjak camp. Nobody gave us anything," Fazlic told a Sarajevo news conference on October 15.

The tent camp has no toilets, no running water, and no electricity, Balkan Insight reported.

Bosnian authorities say more than 20,000 people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries traveled through the mountainous Balkan country last year.

Many are living in tents in parks and other public spaces. Local residents have complained to police about the migrants, claiming they are harassing people, breaking into homes, and causing damage to public facilities.

Croatian police regularly prevent migrants from crossing into the country, creating a bottleneck in Bosnia. Rights groups have accused Croatian authorities of sometimes using violence to block the migrants -- charges Zagreb has denied.

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