SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The head of Europe’s main human rights forum urged Bosnia on Thursday to relocate an overcrowded migrant camp, saying it was unsanitary and unsafe as it lacked running water and electricity and was situated close to a land-mined area.
“The living conditions in this camp…are already deplorable…With winter coming, the situation cannot but worsen,” Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.
Bosnia has been struggling with a rise in migrant arrivals since nearby European Union member states Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia sealed their borders against undocumented immigration.
Over 40,000 migrants have entered the Balkan country since 2018, of whom around 7,300 have settled in the northwest Bihac area hoping to cross into nearby Croatia and go on to the affluent north and west of the EU.
Nearly 20% of the migrants are children.
Over 1,000 of them have been steered to the Vucjak camp, built over a former landfill, 8 km (5 miles) from the Croatian border where land mines remain as a legacy of the 1990s wars triggered by the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Mijatovic urged Bosnian authorities to uphold their responsibilities to handle migration in a human rights-compliant way and provide the necessary help to local authorities who have been dealing with this issue by themselves for so long”.
Bihac’s mayor said this week the cash-strapped town would stop providing food and water to migrants at Vucjak next week to force national authorities in Sarajevo to tackle the problem.
In July the EU pledged 14 million euros ($15.56 million) in aid for new shelters but the scheme has been held up by bickering among rival ethnic parties and anti-migrant rhetoric.
Mijatovic said it was as a matter of urgency that all the migrants currently in Vucjak are relocated to facilities with adequate standards in Bosnia’s two autonomous regions, the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Serb Republic.
The nationalist Serb-dominated Serb Republic has refused to accept any migrants on its territory.
(Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Mark Heinrich)