The United Nations has called on Bosnia & Herzegovina to stop forcing migrants to settle at the unsafe camp of Vucjak near the border with Croatia, which was claimed to be unfit for humans, and criticised numerous cases of violence by the Croatian police.
The UN warned Bosnia in the summer that the camp, located in the town of Bihac, was infested with land mines from the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and should be abandoned. However, the authorities have transferred more than 800 migrants there.
“The condition of the site is inhuman. There is no electricity, very few sanitation facilities, no warm water for showers and no medical care. I concur with the assessment made by the United Nations Country Team on the site and share my concerns over the significant safety and health risks at Vucjak. The location of the site is absolutely inappropriate and inadequate for accommodating human beings,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Felipe Gonzalez Morales said in a statement issued following an eight-day visit to Bosnia.
He urged the Bosnian authorities to stop forcibly escorting migrants to the site and to urgently identify an alternative location to accommodate them, putting a priority on minors.
“In addition, as winter is approaching, to avoid any loss of life, there is a pressing need for the authorities to identify additional accommodation for single men who are currently without shelter,” he added.
According to UN data, between January 2018 and August 2019, approximately 40,000 migrants entered the country irregularly, most of them from Serbia. Most of the migrants were attempting to enter EU via the border between Bosnia and Croatia.
Bosnia was also criticised for the lack of a comprehensive strategy providing a durable solution to the current migration situation and the lack of adequate reception conditions for minors, especially unaccompanied and separated minors.
“Migrant children, including asylum-seeking children, are not provided with family-based care, e.g. foster care, or community-based care, independent living units or other alternatives. There is hardly any shelter or safe house for child victims of violence or abuse except one shelter in Bihac run by a local NGO,” he noted.
Morales also pointed to the violent pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers by Croatian border police back into Bosnian territory.
“According to the testimonies that I received, many migrants were forcibly escorted back to BiH without going through any official procedure. The concrete tactics vary; however, common patterns include the capture of people on the move, confiscation of their properties, especially communication equipment, beating with batons and chasing by dogs with the purpose of physically exhausting them and prevent them from attempting another crossing,” he noted.
Morales added that there were many cases of male migrants who were reportedly stripped, beaten and forced to walk back to Bosnia barefoot.
“The abusive actions by the Croatian border police clearly violate the human rights of these individuals. In reality, this pushback approach has not deterred people on the move from advancing towards the European Union territory. Instead, it has led to a flourishing network of smugglers and organised criminal activities, which require immediate attention and action by all countries in the region,” he said in the statement.
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