Hundreds of migrants on Saturday were stranded in a burnt-out squalid tent camp in Bosnia as heavy snow fell in the country and temperatures suddenly dropped amid a wintry spell of bad weather.
Migrants at the Lipa camp in northwest Bosnia wrapped themselves in blankets and sleeping bags to protect against biting winds in the region, which borders European Union member Croatia.
A fire earlier this week destroyed much of the camp near the town of Bihac that already was harshly criticized by international officials and aid groups as inadequate for housing refugees and migrants.
Authorities have failed to find new accommodation for the migrants at Lipa, leaving around 1,000 people stuck in the cold, with no facilities or heating and on meager food parcels provided by aid groups.
“Snow has fallen, sub-zero temperatures, no heating, nothing,” the International Organization for Migration’s chief of mission in Bosnia, Peter Van Der Auweraert, tweeted. “This is not how anyone should live. We need political bravery and action now.”
Bosnia has become a bottleneck for thousands of migrants hoping to reach Western Europe. Most are stuck in Bosnia’s northwestern Krajina region as other areas in the ethnically divided nation have refused to accept them.
The EU has warned Bosnia that thousands of migrants face a freezing winter without shelter, and it urged the country’s bickering politicians to set aside their differences and take action to accommodate thousands sleeping rough.
On Saturday, migrants crowded at the camp to receive water and food provided by Bosnia’s Red Cross as police sought to maintain order. Some migrants wore face shields to protect them from the new coronavirus.
Plans to relocate the migrants temporarily to a closed facility in central Bihac have prompted protests by residents.
Left without a solution, migrants put down carboard on the floor and set up improvised barriers for a piece of privacy inside the only standing tent at the Lipa camp.
Some people held up their wet feet above the small fires migrants lit outside to warm up, while others held blankets tight next to their bodies for warmth. Many migrants were wearing sneakers despite the snow.
To get to Croatia, migrants often use illegal routes over a mountainous area along the border. Many have complained of violence and pushbacks by the Croatian police.