Approximately 2,500 people, including 900 residents of temporary camp Lipa, remain without basic shelter in perilously cold conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina as authorities fail to provide adequate accommodation to migrants and asylum-seekers, and EU agencies continue to support short-term solutions.
In a statement issued today, leading human rights organizations, Amnesty International, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Médecins du Monde Belgique and Refugee Rights Europe have called for immediate humanitarian support to address the current emergency as well as durable institutional solutions to meet the needs of people transiting through the country.
“Accommodation is available to house most of the people currently sleeping rough in bitterly cold temperatures in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What is lacking is the political will to make that happen. The authorities at all levels must immediately provide suitable shelter and assistance to those in need,” said Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
No long-term solutions despite €88 million of EU assistance
The EU has provided over €88 million in assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina to strengthen its migration management capacity over the past three years. Despite this, the country has failed to identify suitable facilities for the accommodation of migrants and asylum-seekers, assume full responsibility for the management of existing facilities or to provide minimal guaranteed support to those stranded in the country.
“The EU now has to work with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on finding systemic, long term solutions to meet the needs of people on its territory and ensure that this situation does not reoccur yet again next winter,” said Eve Geddie.
“The EU’s responsibility is clear – the current humanitarian crisis is also a consequence of EU’s policy of fortifying its borders that has left thousands of people stranded on its periphery or in the neighbouring countries.”
Lipa unsafe, as temperature plummets
Many of those at risk were housed in a temporary makeshift camp in Lipa, northwest Bosnia, which was shut down on 23 December. A fire broke out during closure, converting the area into an uninhabitable wasteland. Over the weekend, the authorities installed dozens of heated tents on the ground, but close to 400 people remain in makeshift shelters despite heavy snow and the temperatures that are forecasted to plummet in the coming days.
“Without access to running water, adequate sanitation or heating, and significant risks to people’s health and safety, Lipa remains unsuitable as a permanent accommodation site.
Outside of Lipa, many people, including families with children, continue to seek refuge in parks, abandoned houses, defunct factories, and forests close to the border with Croatia. They are in desperate need of shelter and humanitarian assistance as they face dire winter conditions.
“Ultimately, EU’s support for humanitarian crises will ring hollow unless it changes the policies that cause them. The EU must create more genuine opportunities for safe and legal ways for those fleeing conflict, persecution or poverty to reach Europe,” said Eve Geddie.