Migrants: Bosnia, 900 in Lipa find shelter

Many others continue to stay outside in the cold

12 January, 17:02

    SARAJEVO - In Bosnia-Herzegovina all of the 900 migrants who were forced to leave the camp of Lipa, near Bihac (north-west), destroyed by a fire on December 23, have found shelter in tents set up by the Bosnian army in the area of the Lipa camp, local media report. News outlets quoted refugees as expressing satisfaction for the new situation, although temporary, as they wait for the destroyed camp to be rebuilt. The tents are heated and have water and beds with matrasses. A container has six showers and in a large tent hot meals are distributed. The situation, though far from ideal, is an improvement compared to the previous days spent by refugees in freezing temperatures in the snow. Weather conditions are expected to worsen, with temperatures forecast to further plunge in the coming days as thousands of refugees continue to remain in the open, sleeping in the woods or in makeshift shelters.

    Migrants before Christmas set tents on fire at the Lipa camp when they heard that the camp would be closed ahead of radical renovation work to adapt it to winter conditions. The attempt to move refugees to the former Bira camp, in downtown Bihac, and then to former barracks in Bradina, south of Sarajevo, proved unsuccessful due to strong opposition from local residents, backed by local mayors.

    Bosnian authorities were urged to provide for the migrants by the EU - which has so far allocated over 90 million euros for Bosnia-Herzegovina to assist the migrants - and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), denouncing the danger of a real ''humanitarian catastrophe''.

    On Monday, EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned that Bosnia risks ''grave consequences'' if it will not provide urgent assistance to migrants who have remained without shelter.

    Authorities need to take ''full responsibility, urgent action and do everything necessary to provide immediate assistance and work on long-term solutions'', he said.

    A good part of some 8,000 migrants along the Balkan route present in Bosnia-Herzegovina are in the north-east of the country where they are trying to cross the Croatian border to continue their trip to western Europe.

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