Uncertainty persists for migrants in Bosnia burnt tent camp

Migrants leave to be relocated from the Lipa camp northwestern Bosnia, near the border with Croatia, Bosnia, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. The European Union on Monday warned Bosnia that thousands of migrants face a winter without shelter, and it urged the country's bickering political authorities to set aside their differences and take action.

Uncertainty persisted Wednesday for hundreds of migrants whose relocation from a burnt-out tent camp in northwest Bosnia has been canceled amid residents’ protests, reflecting confusion in the Balkan country’s handling of the crisis.

The migrants on Tuesday were supposed to transfer from the much-criticized Lipa camp in the northwest to a former army barracks in the central part of the country. Instead, they spent some 24 hours in buses before being told Wednesday afternoon to disembark and return to the now-empty camp.

The migrants lit fires to warm up while waiting to see what will happen next.

The Lipa camp near the border with Croatia, demolished in a fire last week, lacked basic facilities such as running water or heating. Some 1,000 migrants were stranded there for days in snowy, windy weather after the fire.

European Union officials and aid groups warned of a humanitarian disaster and increased pressure on Bosnia to move the migrants away from the camp.

The troubled Balkan country that went through a devastating war in the 1990s has been struggling with the influx of thousands of people seeking to reach Western Europe. Bickering among Bosnia’s ethnically divided authorities has prevented an organized response to the crisis, leaving some 3,000 migrants sleeping rough or in makeshift tents.

The head mufti of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, called Wednesday for better treatment of the migrants, describing the situation as “shameful” for the country and the rest of Europe.

“We do not treat people in need in such a way,” he said in a statement.

Most migrants are staying in the northwest corner of Bosnia, where they hope to cross into EU member Croatia before moving on toward wealthy EU nations. To get to Croatia, migrants use mountainous illegal routes and often face pushbacks and alleged violence at the hands of Croatia’s police.

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