Sunday, January 17, 2021

Thousands of refugees homeless after camp fire in Bosnia | Refugee News

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Dozens of people spend the night in a damaged metal container near the fire site, where only a ghostly steel construction remained.

More than a thousand refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were left sleeping in the cold after their camp in northwestern Bosnia burned down amid a dispute between Bosnian politicians over where to house them.

A fire destroyed the Lipa camp on Wednesday, sheltering around 1,200 people. Police and UN officials say the blaze was likely started by people unhappy with the camp’s temporary closure, scheduled for the same day, and uncertainty over where they would be relocated in Bosnia .

Dozens of men spent the night in a damaged metal container near the fire site, where only a ghostly steel construction remained. Smoke was still rising from some burnt patches of soil Thursday morning.

Others tried to erect nylon tents and slept fully clothed on the frozen ground. Most of them passed through the woods towards the town of Bihac, near the Croatian border, avoiding areas marked with warnings of landmines left over from the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

Around 10,000 refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are stranded in Bosnia, hoping to reach richer countries in the European Union.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I sat all night,” Pakistan’s Bylal said, adding that he would wait to see if the government provided them with new shelter.

Lipa camp, which was opened last spring as a temporary shelter for the summer months 25 km from Bihac, was due to be closed on Wednesday for winter renovation. But the Bosnian authorities have failed to find alternative accommodation for the residents.

The central government wanted refugees and migrants to return temporarily to Bira camp in Bihac, which was closed in October, but local authorities disagreed, saying other parts of Bosnia should also. share the burden of the migrant crisis.

“Please open Bira camp for everyone to go, it’s very good there,” said Yasin, also from Pakistan. “It is cold here, we cannot stay here, we have no food, we are hungry.

The European Union, which had supported Bosnia with 60 million euros to manage the refugee crisis and pledged an additional 25 million euros, has repeatedly called on the authorities to find an alternative to the unsuitable Lipa camp, emphasizing guard against an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“We urge … the authorities to move beyond political considerations and temporarily reopen the Bira center in Bihac,” the EU said in a statement Wednesday.



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