Around 3,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa are stranded in squats and forest camps amid freezing temperatures in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, suffering from respiratory problems and infections , hoping to soon cross the border with Croatia, a member of the European Union.
The vast majority of those interviewed by Al Jazeera said they waited for the harsh Balkan winter to end before attempting the border crossing again, a journey they dubbed “the game.” For some, it will be their 25th attempt to enter the EU bloc.
As they attempted to reach Croatia, many refugees and migrants reported violent pushbacks by Croatian border forces during these attempts.
Some who made it as far into the EU as Italy faced chain deportations in several Balkan countries, eventually ending up in Bosnia.
Many have told Al Jazeera that they have been living in limbo for about two years.
Since 2016, following the closure of the migration route through Serbia and Hungary, Bosnia has become a hub for those looking to reach richer European countries.
But tensions are growing between residents and refugees.
Suhret Fazlic, mayor of the northern town of Bihać, said his region was the only one bearing a heavy burden, which should instead be shared with other parts of the country.
Almost 70,000 refugees and migrants have passed through Bosnia since 2018. There are currently some 6,000 people in the camps, and more without housing.