SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnian border police on Tuesday denied mistreating migrants after a video emerged of detainees at a border holding facility in what appeared to be cages.
The short video was released by pro-migrant charity Are You Syrious which says it was sent it by one of the detainees. It shows people held in small cells separated by wire mesh.
The charity said the migrants were Iraqis and included five children, one only 3 years old.
The police said the facility shown in the video is a temporary detention block for illegal migrants, built with funding from the European Union, at the Klobuk border crossing where migrants entering from Montenegro are held pending deportation.
“Bosnia-Herzegovina border police deny inhuman treatment of migrants in its facility at the Klobuk border crossing,” they said in a statement.
The video, that shows some detainees huddled in blankets, has caused public outrage in Bosnia, but the police said the cells had air-conditioning and heating and the migrants were not locked in.
The migrants, caught on Monday when they were intercepted near the border without identification, stayed at the facility for just two hours before the Montenegrin police took them back, the police added.
Bosnia, still recovering from civil war in the 1990s, is struggling to cope with thousands of migrants since January 2018, when it became a major transit country as other countries, such as EU members Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, sealed their borders.
Activists have often criticised the treatment of migrants by the Croatian police on Bosnia’s northwestern borders. They now say more cases of mistreatment by the Bosnian police on the southern borders are being reported.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Robin Pomeroy)