BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Human Rights Watch says a plan by authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina to relocate hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers from the city of Bihac to a nearby tent city poses “a significant health and safety risk” to the migrants.
In recent days have, police from the Interior Ministry of Bosnia's northwestern Una-Sana Canton have been relocating hundreds of migrants from Bihac to a newly established refugee camp in Vucjak, about eight kilometers away.
The effort comes after municipal governments across the Una-Sana Canton decided that migrants can no longer stay in public spaces or abandoned buildings within their city limits.
Police spokesman Ale Siljdedic says the relocation campaign has so far focused mainly on Bihac because the situation in the town is "at the most critical stage."
But he said authorities have also started to move refugees to the Vucjak tent camp from the city of Velika Kladusa.
"We have to work every day until we somewhat resolve the situation," Siljdedic said
According to Migration.iom.int, a website that analyzes population flows, 7,127 migrants were registered as entering Bosnia in 2019 up to May 15, more than 6 times the total for all of 2017. In 2018, 23,848 were registered, the highest single-year total ever for the country.
Most migrants in Bosnia are concentrated in two northwestern towns, Bihac and Velika Kladusa, close to the 1,000-kilometer-long border with Croatia, a member of the European Union.
Human Rights Watch researcher Lydia Gall told RFE/RL that Bosnian authorities need to ensure there is adequate accommodation space for all migrants and asylum seekers in the country, one of Europe's poorest.
Gall said the relocation campaign was a "worrisome development" that raises concerns about adequate housing conditions at the Vucjak refugee camp.
"Issues such as poor sanitation, hygiene facilities, the location in the proximity to a former garbage dump and minefields close by combine to raise alarm bells," Gall said.
"Authorities have a responsibility to house people in adequate and humane conditions at another location," she said.
HRW Warns Of Risks Of Bosnian Plan To Relocate Refugees In Tent Camp