The ambassadors of the EU, Austria, Germany and Italy met on Saturday with Bosnia’s Security Minister to express their outrage over the country’s treatment of hundreds of migrants who spent days freezing in the open after the camp Lipa in the northwest of the country burned down, urging authorities to take urgent steps to accommodate the migrants.
The Head of the EU Delegation in Bosnia, Johann Sattler, Austrian Ambassador, Ulrike Hartman, German Ambassador, Margret Uebber and Italian Ambassador, Nicola Minasi, met with Minister, Selmo Cikotic, to discuss “urgent solutions for the extremely concerning migration situation in the Una Sana Canton, especially in the Camp Lipa area,” an EU Delegation press release said.
“The situation is completely unacceptable,” Sattler said. “Lives and basic human rights of many hundreds of people are seriously jeopardised. Bosnia and Herzegovina is party to the international human rights instruments and needs to live up to its obligations, as an aspiring EU member.”
Hundreds of migrants spent days without adequate shelter after the Lipa camp was shut down on December 23.
The IOM pulled out of the camp because the migrants staying there had no access to electricity, running water or sewage. The camp also did not provide shelter from the extreme weather conditions in the winter.
The Council of Ministers adopted a decision two weeks ago to turn the improvised tent camp into an official one that would provide adequate shelter and basic necessities to the migrants.
However, the migrants can not be there during the potential works in the camp, which are expected to last for months.
As the migrants were leaving, a fire broke out at Lipa and destroyed most of the tents.
Although Bosnia’s Council of Ministers has adopted a decision to transfer the migrants to the former Bira migrant reception centre in the nearby town of Bihac, local authorities refuse to reopen it due to opposition from the local population.
The EU Delegation statement praised the deployment of the BiH Armed Forces that provided emergency tents to provisionally shelter migrants, calling it a “much needed step.”
“However, the authorities must act urgently, in particular by ensuring water and electricity installations at the provisional camp site. Humane living conditions need be ensured at all times,” it said.
The ambassadors stressed that a longer-term solution is still required and urged authorities to ensure “a fully equipped camp at the original Lipa location as quickly as possible” and “flagged their respective financial contributions made available.”
“Ambassadors reiterated the need to uphold the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina by abiding by the Council of Ministers´ decision to re-open the Bira camp until Lipa is fully equipped to accommodate migrants. Additional emergency options would also need to be brought to the table,” the EU Delegation press release said.
It also said that the ambassadors recognised that “a sustainable solution would need to involve a more equal distribution of migrants across the country based on shared responsibility and ensuring dignified living conditions for the migrants on the one hand and the security of BiH citizens on the other.”
“The EU provides significant support, €85.5 million, to help BiH meet its humanitarian responsibilities and assist the migrants and refugees present in the country,” it said.