Countless migrants are sleeping on the cold pavement near the bus station in the northeastern town of Tuzla, and while the local government is ignoring the problem, citizens do their best to help them and provide them with basic necessities for survival.
About 10,000 migrants passed through Tuzla since the beginning of last year. The town is for many of them not only a place of transit, since they lack the money to continue their trip.
Without the most basic hygienic conditions, skin diseases such as scabies - which is highly contagious - have emerged among some.
This is also dangerous for locals, experts say.
“With the arrival of large migrations, there is the danger of introducing some other, much more dangerous conditions, depending on which country they are coming from and where such diseases exist while they do not exist here,” said Blasko Topalovic, from the Tuzla Canton Public Health Institute.
Many of the migrants are injured. They cover themselves at night with blankets and clothing. Since there are no toilets, the migrants staying on the streets use a nearby unfinished building instead.
“The conditions here are catastrophic. Desperate. This place where they are staying is not even fit for animals, let alone human beings,” said Senad Piric, a volunteer.
However, the migrants told N1 they left far worse conditions.
“I left my country because the situation was not stable and because of the war,” said Jakub Adam, from Sudan.
“I decided to leave because I have a large family. My father is old and cannot make a living. That is why I decided to fo to Europe to earn money,” said Rehan Ali, from Pakistan.
During the day, the migrants hope someone might bring them food or money for a bus ticket.
Among them is also food technology engineer Chian Danes, from Iran.
He hopes to reach Norway and reunite with his wife and children there. He said he had his own company back home, but left it all behind.
“The Iranian regime is very bad. It is fascist. I am from Kurdistan. There are a lot of problems there,” he said.
Locals, volunteers and various organisations help the migrants, distributing packages containing basic necessities.
According to Zlatko Krvavac, from the Tuzla Red Cross, 4,875 such packages have been distributed.
Although there are no migrants staying in the nearby municipality of Celic, the local community there was the first to react to the migrant situation in Tuzla. “
At a hotel here, ‘Rudar’, we are trying to pay for a few rooms for a month, so the migrants can tend to their hygiene, take showers, get some food, and we are doing this with the help of the ‘Emmaus’ association, the Red Cross and others,” said one of the locals in Celic, Nermin Okanovic.
The problem is, however, being ignored by the local government in Tuzla. There was no official reaction to the announcement that mass migrant arrivals are expected.
As the winter is approaching, the pavement the people are sleeping on is getting colder and colder.