A confrontation over religion between Shia and Sunni Muslims was what sparked the mass brawl that took place in the Blazuj migrant camp near Sarajevo on Wednesday evening which left two police officers, one International Organisation for Migration (IOM) official and several migrants injured, Bosnia’s Security Minister told a parliamentary commission.
According to the Sarajevo Canton Interior Ministry's official report, the clash between police and the migrants took place when IOM officials arrived at the camp to relocate one of the migrants who instigated the riot.
“Migrants tried to set him free forcibly which led to the conflict,” said spokesperson Mirza Hadziabdic.
Bosnia’s Security Minister, Selmo Cikotic, explained what happened to Bosnia’s Joint Parliamentary Commission for Defence and Security on Thursday.
“One person from Iran provoked others in Blazuj who are from Pakistan and Afghanistan on religious grounds and there was a conflict, they tried to resolve it among themselves,” he said, explaining that the Service for Foreigners Affairs and members of the IOM intervened, but that Sarajevo Canton police put a stop to what turned into “large-scale violence.”
The person who started the riot is now in an immigration centre and will be deported, he said.
Hasan Sroder, one of the migrants who witnessed the events that led up to the riot, told N1 that it started when an Iranian said something offensive about Prophet Muhammad and was confronted by Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.
Meanwhile, the police union in Canton Sarajevo asked Bosnia’s Council of Ministers and other competent institutions to address the security situation in light of the migrants “in a more serious, systematic and responsible way.”
“Significant material damage was caused. Police officers in the Sarajevo Canton are outraged,” said Sarajevo Canton Interior Minister, Admir Katica, adding that 20 police vehicles, six IOM vehicles and several vehicles of other organisations were also damaged.
The camp in Blazuj is the largest migrant camp in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The exact number of migrants staying there is unknown but it is estimated that there are some 3,000 of them. Several incidents have already been reported at the camp.
A large number of police officers are now securing the camp.