Migrants at a refugee camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina have begun a hunger strike as a top European human rights official warned that the temporary facility needs to be closed immediately or “people will start to die.”
At a visit on December 3 to the Vucjak camp near Bihac, Dunja Mijatovic, the high representative for human rights at the Council of Europe, decried the conditions at the camp, which are expected to deteriorate as winter quickly closes in.
“This is a shame for Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a Bosnian I am ashamed because of the Vucjak situation,” Mijatovic said as snow flurries enveloped the area.
The Vucjak camp, built in June on a former landfill, currently hosts around 600 people. It does not have electricity or running water, while the tents housing migrants were erected on bare ground.
The European Union has given Bosnia more than 36 million euros ($ 40 million) in aid, but conditions at Vucjak are so bad that “no EU financial support can, or will be, provided for it,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on November 14.
Most migrants have gathered in the northwestern part of Bosnia, which borders EU member Croatia, prompting local authorities to demand that other parts of the country share the burden.
Mijatovic said talks will be held with officials of Una Sana Canton, as well as with the government in Sarajevo, at the end of the week.
An estimated 50,000 migrants have crossed into Bosnia since last year putting additional pressure on the impoverished nation. The government in Sarajevo, perpetually blocked by ethnic squabbling, has failed to act.
In mid-November, the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group said that the improvised refugee camp does not meet basic living standards and was a “dangerous and inhumane place.”