AP Photo/Kemal Softic
The European Commission announced on Sunday that it is giving €3.5 million in humanitarian aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help migrants living in “unacceptable” conditions following a camp fire.
Brussels said the funds will help migrants and refugees “facing a humanitarian disaster” by financing warm clothing, blankets, food, healthcare and mental health and psychological support.
The Lipa camp, in the northeastern Una Sana canton, burnt down on December 23 as it was being closed. The facility had been opened months earlier as a temporary pandemic measure and was not suitable for the harsh winter conditions as it has no sewage, running water or electricity.
900 of the camp’s 1,400 former residents were meant to be rehoused in centres around the country but were told to return to the burnt down camp on December 30 despite the freezing conditions. Additionally, about 1,000 people, including children, live in squats and forests near the camp.
The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell, described the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as “unacceptable” in a statement on Sunday.
“Winter-proof accommodations are a pre-requisite for humane living conditions, which need to be ensured at all times. Local authorities need to make existing facilities available and provide a temporary solution until Lipa camp is rebuilt into a permanent facility.
“However, long-term solutions are urgently needed. We urge the authorities not to leave people out in the cold, without access to sanitary facilities in the midst of a global pandemic,” he added.
The funds will add to the €4.5 million the Commission already allocated in April and brings Brussels’ humanitarian assistance for migrants and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina to €13.8 million since 2018.
More than 5,400 refugees and migrants are currently accommodated in temporary reception centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina following an influx of people hoping to cross into the EU in recent years.
A migrant reception in Bihac, near the Lipa camp, was closed down in September due to local opposition.
The outcry over the conditions at Lipa prompted the Bosnian authorities to deploy the military to set up tents on January 1.