Hundreds of refugees with out shelter after Bosnia camp burns | Refugees Information
Dozens spend the night in a damaged metal container near the source of the fire, where only an eerie steel structure was left.
More than a thousand refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were put to sleep in the cold after their camp in northwestern Bosnia burned down in a dispute among Bosnian politicians over housing.
On Wednesday, a fire destroyed the camp in Lipa, where around 1,200 people lived. Police and United Nations officials said the fire was likely started by people unhappy with the temporary closure of the camp planned for the same day and uncertainty about where they would be relocated in Bosnia.
Dozens of men spent the night in a damaged metal container near the scene of the fire, where only an eerie steel structure was left. On Thursday morning, smoke was still rising from some burned floors.
Others tried to pitch nylon tents and slept fully clothed on the frozen ground. Most of them walked through the forest towards the town of Bihac near the Croatian border, avoiding areas marked with landmine warnings from the Bosnian War in the 1990s.
About 10,000 refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are stuck in Bosnia hoping to reach richer countries in the European Union.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I sat all night,” said Bylal from Pakistan, adding that he would wait and see if the government would offer them new protection.
The Lipa camp, which opened last spring as an emergency shelter for the summer months 25 km from Bihac, was due to be closed on Wednesday for renovation work in winter. However, the Bosnian authorities could not find alternative accommodation for the residents.
The central government wanted the refugees and migrants to temporarily return to the Bira camp in Bihac, which was closed in October. However, local authorities disagreed, saying that other parts of Bosnia should share the burden of the migrant crisis.
“Please open the Bira camp so that everyone can go there. It’s very good there,” said Yasin, also from Pakistan. “It’s cold here, we can’t stay here, we don’t have any food, we’re hungry.”
The European Union, which supported Bosnia with 60 million euros in dealing with the refugee crisis and pledged a further 25 million euros, has repeatedly asked the authorities to find an alternative to the unsuitable Lipa camp in order to warn of a spreading humanitarian crisis.
“We call … on the authorities to rise above political considerations and temporarily reopen the Bira Center in Bihac,” the EU said in a statement on Wednesday