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Migrants Clash With Bosnian Police Over Conditions At Camp Near Croatian Border

A man resting at the flooded Miral refugee camp in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, on February 14.
A man resting at the flooded Miral refugee camp in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, on February 14.

Hundreds of migrants clashed with police in Bosnia-Herzegovina as they attempted to break out of a camp in protest at the conditions under which they are being held and of alleged abuse by border officials in nearby Croatia.

The scuffles occurred on February 15 at the Miral migrant camp in western Bosnia, about 10 kilometers from the Croatian border.

The camp houses about 1,000 migrants, some 300 more than its intended capacity.

There were no reports of injuries, but witnesses told Reuters they saw police clashing with and detaining some mostly male migrants who were shouting "Freedom," "Give us our money back," and "Stop beating us."

Many of the migrants also complained about Croatian border guards, whom they accused of violent push-backs and mistreatment when they earlier tried to cross the frontier.

Camp resident Salam Batu told Reuters that “the Croatian police are very, very bad. We want the border to be opened. Please don't hit us anymore. Don't remove our jackets, shoes, and socks. They take it all."

A man from Pakistan said that "if we go to the border, the Croatian police are burning our jackets and shoes, they take mobile phones."

Croatian authorities have denied the accusations of abuse at the hands of police.

Bosnia authorities say about 50,000 migrants, mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, and Syria, passed through the country in 2019 in a bid to reach Western Europe through EU member Croatia.

An estimated 6,000 migrants remain stranded inside Bosnia, with most of them housed in makeshift shelters in Velika Kladusa, where the Miral camp is located, and in and around Bihac.

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group has said the improvised camps in northwestern Bosnia do not meet basic living standards, calling one at Vucjak a “dangerous and inhumane place” before it was shut down by Bosnian authorities.

Bosnia has experienced an increase in migrant traffic since the so-called Balkan Route from Greece to Western Europe was shut down in 2015 after more than 1 million undocumented migrants reached Europe.

Most crossed the sea between Turkey and Greece before traveling through Hungary to wealthier destinations in Western Europe.

Turkey, Greece, and Hungary put measures in place to make the journey extremely difficult, reducing the migrant flow substantially but putting more pressure on Bosnia, which has put tougher border controls in place.

With reporting by Reuters and The New York Times

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