Bosnia's state and cantonal authorities at odds over migrant crisis management

NEWS 02.10.2020 18:35
Source: N1

Only days after the police in Bosnia's northwestern town Bihac escorted hundreds of illegal migrants from a camp in Bihac's urban zone to a camp outside the town, the state authorities ordered their return, stressing that the hierarchy of institutions in managing this problem must be obeyed.

“You cannot have a municipal council or cantonal government dictating the state institutions or international organisations or European Union what to do. It is simply not realistic,” Bosnia's Security Minister Selmo Cikotic said Friday, following a meeting with Bihac Mayor Suhret Fazlic and Prime Minister of the northwestern Una-Sana Canton (USK), Mustafa Ruznic. 

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But, the local representatives in that part of Bosnia did not seem as if they intended to follow the orders.

“I have no competencies over police but I demand from the Prime Minister, the (police) commissioner, that not a single migrant is returned to Bira (camp),” said Mayor Fazlic.

According to the Security Minister, there were two conclusions discussed in the meeting but the consent was reached on only one of them. 

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The first demanding the return of migrants to the camp in Bihac's urban zone was dismissed, while they agreed on the second referring to further management of the migrant issue by the state institutions and international organisations, in line with certain conclusions.

“And those conclusions mean that migrants should be relocated from urban and city zones to previously prepared facilities. That has not been done yet but we don't agree with this methodology, we don't accept the fait accompli strategy,” said the minister.

Dissatisfied with the meeting's results, USK Prime Minister Ruznic announced protests if other camps in that region's urban zones are not shut down.

Returning those who were recently sent to the Lipa camp, outside Bihac, is not acceptable for the locals, according to him.

“I asked them only one question: For how much longer it's going to be Una-Sana Canton?,” he stressed.

The decision of USK authorities to relocate migrants triggered strong reactions in the international organisations. While the United Nations's office in Sarajevo expressed concerns over the lack of capacities in the camp where the migrants were sent, the European Union and the International Organisation for migrations warned this situation might cause a “humanitarian crisis.”

This northwestern region, which borders Croatia, has been affected the most by the migrant crisis. Besides those accommodated in temporarily established camps across the region, it is believed that several thousands of migrants are roaming outside and sleeping in the open, abandoned buildings or forests.