UN in BiH concerned over lack of accommodation for migrants leaving Lipa camp

NEWS 23.12.2020 13:07
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Source: Fena

The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina expressed concern over the lack of a solution for accommodating the migrants who left the northwestern Lipa migrant camp which is closing down on Wednesday and called on state authorities to secure new locations to accommodate them, preferably outside the areas in BiH mostly affected by the migrant crisis.

The Lipa camp was initially set to close down last weekend but the closure was postponed several times, as the country’s state-level authorities were expected to find new accommodation for the migrants.

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Migrants staying at Lipa had no access to electricity, running water or sewage. The camp also provides no adequate protection against winter weather conditions, and according to the UN, this “for health and safety reasons necessitates the effective closure of the facility today, adversely impacting 1,200 people on the move.”

A large fire broke out at the camp as the migrants were leaving on Wednesday. According to the head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Peter Van Der Auweraert, a group of migrants set the fire after most others already left.

“With, at least, an additional 1,500 migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, including women and children, already stranded in squats and forest camps, mostly in the Una-Sana Canton, the lack of immediate solution raises the overall number of people in dire need of humanitarian aid to almost 3,000,” UN in BiH said.

“While the UN and its partners, including the Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council, work daily to alleviate the plight of the stranded people with life-saving items and food parcels, this situation is unsustainable, and risks further high pressure on the local communities and humanitarian workers,” it said.

The UN said that it fully recognises all the efforts from BiH institutions and the “considerable support and solidarity of local communities” in USK, it urged authorities to “immediately engage in the winterisation of the Lipa Emergency Tent Camp and offer an alternative shelter option while the work is being conducted.”

“The UN also calls on the state authorities to identify and make available new locations, preferably outside Una Sana Canton and Sarajevo Canton for people stranded outdoors with temperatures below freezing. The UN is ready to support the authorities in these efforts.,” it said.

This is an avoidable situation as funds for solutions are available, it said.

“What is immediately needed are clear and agreed solutions in order to ensure better management of the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in BiH. The UN remains committed to supporting the BiH authorities and the local communities in these efforts,” the statement concluded.

Locals in the nearby town of Bihac oppose the potential reopening of the ‘Bira’ camp that was closed in late September in order to keep migrants away from urban areas.