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Bosnian Police Scuffle With Migrants At Border With Croatia

Bosnian police officers prevent migrants from crossing the border at Izacic on the border with Croatia on October 23.
Bosnian police officers prevent migrants from crossing the border at Izacic on the border with Croatia on October 23.

Bosnian police late on October 23 scuffled with migrants as around 300 people sought to run a blockade at the border with Croatia and enter the European Union.

"They attempted three times to break through the police cordons, but they were pushed back," said border police spokeswoman Saneta Dujkovic.

Despite some minor scuffles near the Maljevac border post, "there were no major incidents," she said.

No injuries were reported.

By late evening, some 100 migrants remained camped at the border near the town of Velika Kladusa in northwestern Bosnia, which has applied to join the European bloc but is not as yet a member.

After Macedonia, Serbia, and other Balkan countries toughened their borders in recent years, Bosnia this year became a major way station for migrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere taking the so-called Balkan route to the EU.

Several thousand migrants have been living in makeshift shelters in Bosnia for months, awaiting an opportunity to continue on to the EU.

Most come from Pakistan and Afghanistan, but there are also Iranians, Syrians, and Algerians among them.

While some have been repeatedly turned back by a beefed-up police patrol at the Croatian border, many have managed to slip through and continue their journey to Western Europe.

Earlier on October 23, another group of about 100 migrants, including families with children, was sent back by police in buses after spending a night on the roadside near Izacic, another border crossing.

Police stopped them from marching farther and sent them to a hotel that has been turned into a temporary migrant center.

Croatian police said in a statement they would not allow illegal entry into the country. They warned of false rumors being spread that Croatia's borders would be opened to allow people to enter freely.

Bosnia's mountainous terrain was previously avoided by migrants trying to reach Western Europe.

But as migrants have increasingly flocked to the war-torn country, aid groups say they are not getting adequate care, with authorities yet to set up a formal reception center in Bosnia's northwestern region, where most of the migrants are located.

The UN's refugee agency warned that better shelter is needed before winter hits.

"We have been calling for the Bosnian find additional accommodation for asylum seekers for the past few months. Unfortunately, this was not done sufficiently," Neven Crvenkovic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for the Balkans, said on October 23.

"Winter is at the door and it is really the last moment to ensure the necessary housing capacity to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in northern Bosnia," he said.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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