“This is what the start of a humanitarian crisis looks like”, warned IOM’s representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina today, as hundreds of migrants were forcibly removed from the IOM-run accommodation which has been sheltering migrants and refugees for almost two years.
“Beyond the inhumanity of it all, it is difficult to see how last night’s action addresses the legitimate concerns of local citizens”, said Peter Van der Auweraert, IOM’s sub-regional coordinator for the Western Balkans. “It will only add to number of people already sleeping rough in and around Bihac”.
In the wake of local elections in November, local authorities in Una Sana canton, bordering Croatia, took the drastic action, claiming pressure from the local community. The move adds a further 350 people to the 2,500 that IOM estimates are already sleeping rough in Bosnia.
The total number of migrants and refugees currently in the country is about 8,500. Most see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a transit country on route to the European Union, and the past two and a half years have seen more than 55,000 migrants and refugees using this route.
IOM Bosnia and Herzegovina took the most vulnerable cases into medical facilities, but hundreds of others had to fend for themselves.
“We are calling on the authorities to provide access to shelter for those 350 migrant and refugees, as well as the other 2,500 people sleeping outside in forests, abandoned buildings and public spaces, added Van der Auweraert.
Early snows have hit much of Europe, a reminder that the bitter Balkan winter is just around the corner.
“Every year we call for solutions, and every year we just about manage to find accommodation for those that need it”, noted Van der Auweraert. “But this year the upcoming local elections in mid-November and the higher number of migrants and refugees sleeping outside make us less confident. The situation is very, very grim”.