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U.N. calls on Bosnia to stop forcing migrants into unsafe camp

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By Reuters
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By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Bosnia on Tuesday to stop forcing migrants to settle at an unsafe camp near the Croatian border, describing it as unfit for housing people.

Some 800 migrants have been steered to the Vucjak site, a former landfill close to landmine-infested areas, some 8 km (5 miles) from the Croatian border. The location lacks running water, electricity and medical care and there are very few sanitation facilities.

“The location…is absolutely inappropriate and inadequate for accommodating human beings,” the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights of Migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, told reporters.

“Winter is approaching, I reiterate my call for a timely solution for those without appropriate shelter.”

Bosnia has seen an increase in migrant arrivals since nearby EU members Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia sealed their borders.

Some 40,000 migrants have entered the country since 2018, of whom around 7,300 have settled in the northwestern Bihac area hoping to cross the border into Croatia and on to western Europe. Nearly 20% of them are children.

Morales said the “fragmented political structure” of Bosnia, which is divided on ethnic lines under a peace agreement that ended its 1990s war, had undermined the country’s ability to provide basic rights to migrants.

The Serb-dominated Serb Republic, one of two autonomous regions that make up Bosnia along with a Federation of Croat and Muslim cantons, has refused to accept any migrants on its territory. Morales urged the authorities at all levels to work together towards a state-led response to migration.

Some 93% of migrants expressed intention to seek asylum in Bosnia but only 5.4% of them were able to formally lodge an asylum claim due to multiple barriers in law.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Peter Graff)