By Boris Kavic
VUCJAK, Bosnia (Reuters) – Up to 700 migrants from Asia and the Middle East who had been sleeping rough in the Bosnian town of Bihac have been moved to a camp on the site of a former garbage dump near the Croatian border that has been criticised as inadequate by UN agencies.
A few dozen newly-erected white tents could be seen on Wednesday in a meadow surrounded by trees and bushes and guarded by police. In scorching heat, migrants queued for food and used water from tanks to wash and shave themselves.
“This is not (a) camp,” said Mohammed Jamil, from Pakistan, “These are only tents, no facilities, no toilets, no proper food.”
United Nations agencies have criticised sanitary facilities at the Vucjak site and its location close to areas still peppered with landmines from the 1990s wars in Bosnia.
The migrants themselves have complained about being moved to the isolated, snake-infested border area from Bihac, where they had access to shops, pharmacies and the internet.
Authorities say the move was to ease the burden on Bihac, where citizens had protested that migrants sleeping in parks and abandoned houses posed security and health risks.
Unlike many European countries, Bosnia did not experience significant migrant arrivals in 2015. But since European Union members Hungary, Slovenia and neighbouring Croatia sealed their borders it has seen an influx of people trying to reach wealthier nations.
About 25,000 migrants and refugees entered the Balkan country from Serbia and Montenegro last year, and about 9,000 have arrived this year. Around 6,000 are in Bihac and Velika Kladusa, two towns bordering Croatia, but only about 3,500 have been placed in four transit centres there.
“We don’t want to live here, we want to go to Italy, Germany,” said 52-year-old Jamil.
Mohammed Ahmad, 25, who is also from Pakistan, said police had treated the migrants roughly even though few of them were “troublemakers”.
Selam Midjic, the secretary of the local Red Cross, which has been distributing tents, food, clothes and personal hygiene items to the migrants, said the situation at Vucjak has been improving daily.
“We have made a small tent settlement out of nothing in which we are trying to create ever better conditions for migrants,” Midjic said.
(Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Catherine Evans)