The living conditions the migrants at northwestern Bosnian camp Lipa are facing are “cruel and inhumane,” the BiH Security Minister said, adding that the Armed Forces are expected to get involved in turning the camp into a more suitable location for the migrants to stay in and that the former migrant reception centre in the nearby town of Bihac will not be used to accommodate them.
A delegation led by Security Minister, Selmo Cikotic, and Defense Minister, Sifet Podzic, arrived at the Lipa camp in northwestern Bosnia to visit the tents the Armed Forces set up for the hundreds of migrants who have been stranded there for days without water, electricity or proper shelter from the freezing cold.
The Chief of the Joint Staff of Bosnia’s Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Senad Masovic, Director of the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, Slobodan Ujic, Prime Minister of the Una-Sana Canton (USK), Mustafa Ruznic, Mayor of Bihac, Suhret Fazlic, and representatives of the EU Delegation and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the country also visited the camp.
“We came to see what the contribution of all institutions toward creating living conditions for migrants here was,” Cikotic said, adding that what has been happening in recent days regarding the migrant crisis showed that this is a humanitarian, security and political situation only one of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and two cantons in the country are dealing with, which he called “unsustainable.”
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.
State authorities then decided to accommodate the migrants at the former migrant reception centre Bira in Bihac, which was closed in September last year due to pressure from locals.
Bihac residents, however, gathered in front of Bira to prevent the transfer of migrants there.
Cikotic said that the camp was also visited by representatives of companies that need to secure the supply of electricity and water there, as well as organizations that will take care of the accommodation, food and health care of migrants.
He said his ministry will ask Bosnia’s Presidency on Monday to hold an emergency session in order to approve the involvement of the Armed Forces in the works to turn the camp into a more suitable location for the migrants.
“Our citizens of Bihac do not have to guard Bira, we want to create the proper conditions here, to relocate all migrants here as soon as possible,” he said.
He explained that state authorities only planned to accommodate migrants at Bira until the works at Lipa are completed, but that the decision was not realised.
“We are now trying to create the conditions for Bira to be officially and legally closed as soon as possible,” Cikotic said.
USK Prime Minister, Mustafa Ruznic, said that the local population never abandoned the migrants, even when everyone else did and that local authorities did everything they can to help turn Lipa into a proper migrant camp.
The Mayor of Bihac, Suhret Fazlic, said that there is no need to “politicise” the issue.
“Bira is not an option at all and locals have no reason to keep gathering there,” he said.
But the migrants do not want to remain at Lipa.
As the delegation was leaving, the migrants chanted “EU help us.”