European Union's (EU) officials, who arrived in Bosnia's northwestern town Bihac on Monday to discuss the migrant issue with local authorities, expressed content over how the EU-provided funds intended for the issue of migrations have been utilised. They announced the relocation of migrants to new locations, to unburden the capacities in this part of the country.
So far 18 million Euros have been spent for the purpose and the same amount is still available for two new locations that are to be set up for the accommodation of migrants.
“We held intensive dialogue with all the authorities to help with internal coordination and recruited an expert to that end,” said Michela Matuella, Head of Unit at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission.
The northwestern Una-Sana Canton (USK) has been struggling for months with the influx of migrants, who are flocking the area in hope they would eventually cross the nearby border with Croatia and continue their journey to their final destinations in the European Union.
But, as Croatia is keeping its border closed for illegal migrants, they are stuck in this part of Bosnia, mostly accommodated in a few temporary camps across the canton.
The problem emerged when the local population asked the authorities to close the migrant centres in urban zones down, saying that they were concerned about their safety. Meanwhile, the only migrant centre outside the city, the infamous 'Vucjak' camp, was assessed by the EU institutions as inadequate for this purpose.
EU officials meeting with Una-Sana Canton officials in Bihać today to discuss migration issues and ensure dignified accommodation for refugees and migrants in view of the coming winter.pic.twitter.com/fsU55EO6s9— EU in BiH (@eubih)November 18, 2019
Mustafa Ruznic, the USK Prime Minister, told the Brussels delegation that both the citizens and the authorities want the migrants to be relocated outside the city and that their further influx is stopped.
“We are done with those stances and won't give up. We urge the Security Ministry and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, each of them in their own capacity, to hold a meeting that would be attended by all those in charge of this migrant crisis and pass a decision on when and where the Vucjak camp would be relocated, within which period and what are the new location, and also where would be the 'Bira' and 'Miral' (centres in urban zones) be relocated. The citizens of this canton sent a clear message that 'Bira' and 'Miral' must be relocated and I am sad to see that everyone involved in this process has failed and didn't listen to what we were saying since October last year. The USK citizens and Government cannot be expected to carry the burden alone in this process. We won't do that anymore,” the prime minister told the media following the meeting.
The citizens of Bihac held a peaceful gathering on Friday, raising their voice over the presence of migrants near their homes and urban zones in general.
They said they wanted to spend time in their neighbourhoods “in peace.”
“We have positive news, and that means that new locations, i.e. two new centres have been identified, one of which would be in Sarajevo and the second one in Tuzla, which will help the unburdening of the Una-Sana Canton,” Matuella was quoted as saying. “These locations are currently undergoing an assessment in terms of capacities and time needed to transfer the migrants to those locations. Once we are done with that, the top priorities will be solved, and that's Vucjak.”
Over the past year, 25,000 migrants entered the country and although there is no precise data, competent authorities estimate that there are some 9,000 of them in the country right now.