The controversial Lipa migrant camp was destroyed by a fire in late December, leaving some 1,400 men homeless. The fire was reportedly started by residents of the camp, many of whom had already begun moving out due to the poor living conditions there. IOM’s Chief of Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) told InfoMigrants: “Suddenly our staff noticed that a small group was setting fire to one of the tents and they repeated this action with the other tents and some of the containers were also on fire in the chaos, looting started of some of the items that were still left in the camp.” Other facilities in BiH for single males are overpopulated, including one in Sarajevo which, though it only has a capacity of 2,400, already houses approximately 3,000 people.
There are more than 3,000 refugees and migrants in the earby Bihac area who do not have access to shelter. Local authorities have reportedly refused government orders to reopen a reception centre that was shut down in October 2020. According to the IOM, people were sleeping in abandoned buildings and makeshift camps in the forest and that “IOM had … been providing assistance such as winterized jackets, sleeping bags, food packages and hygiene packages to the 1,500 migrants already sleeping outside.”
According to Al-Jazeera, on 30 December, the relocation of migrants and refugees from the Lipa camp to army barracks in Bradina was cancelled. Migrants and refugees spent around 24 hours in buses prior to being told to disembark and return to the burnt out camp. People were left stranded without access to food, water, or accommodation.
On 8 January 2021, ECRE reported that there were still around 2,500 people sleeping rough in the northwest of BiH, of which several hundreds remained in squalid conditions at the burnt down Lipa camp. According to ECRE, while “housing capacities and sufficient funding exist, political disagreement between local and national authorities perpetuate this humanitarian crisis.” Since 2018, 70,000 people have travelled through BiH, but reaching the EU remains dangerous and people often face pushbacks and violence at the Croatia border (see 2 August and 22 June Croatia updates on this platform).
Said EU foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell in early January: “Over the last weeks, we have witnessed a serious humanitarian crisis concerning hundreds of migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina … largely due to the disfunctioning governance in the country” (InfoMigrants 06/01/20201).
- M. MacGregor, “Refugee Camp Burns in Bosnia,” InfoMigrants, 23 December 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/29296/refugee-camp-burns-in-bosnia
- ECRE, “ECRE Weekly Bulletin,” 8 January 2021, https://mailchi.mp/ecre/ecre-weekly-bulletin-08012021?e=a95f4356a0
- Al-Jazeera, “Bosnia Cancels Migrant Relocation From Burned Down Camp,” 30 December 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/30/bosnia-cancels-migrant-relocation-from-burned-down-camp
- M. Bierbach, “Migrants in Bosnia: EU, UN Officials Condemn Situation in Lipa Camp,” InfoMigrants, 6 January 2021, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/29469/migrants-in-bosnia-eu-un-officials-condemn-situation-in-lipa-camp