Illegal migration in Bosnia and Herzegovina has reached critical levels, and the situation is bound to get worse since there is no coordination between the state and local government in the country regarding the matter, Interior Minister of the Una-Sana Canton Nermin Kljajic said, Nezavisne Novine daily reported on Monday.
“The Council of Ministers was formed two months ago, but there is still no serious response on how the Canton will be protected from illegal migration,” Kljajic said.
Una-Sana Canton, stretching along Bosnia’s northwest border with Croatia, has been hit the hardest by the migrant crisis. According to estimates from the Canton capital city of Bihac, there are currently about 5,000 illegal migrants in the region, 3,500 of whom are accommodated in reception centres. The rest are left to their own devices – those who can afford it are staying in private accommodation and the others found shelter in abandoned buildings in urban areas.
According to Kljajic, all four reception centres in the Canton have been filled to capacity for a long time, and the situation is reaching a boiling point since Bosnia does not have a consolidated migration management plan.
Canton’s Prime Minister, Mustafa Ruznic, said the cantonal government had proposed that the two reception centres in the area, Bira near Bihac and Miral in the border town of Velika Kladusa, be closed down, and that a larger transit centre be build outside residential areas, which would house all migrants. The Canton government had even proposed a location, but the state authorities have not looked into the initiative.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that a few hundred migrants accommodated in the Miral reception centre tried to break out of the camp, which led to a brawl with the local police. Several people were detained, but no injuries were reported.
The migrants complained about the conditions and overcrowding in the centre, but they also accused the Croatian border police of brutality and violent pushbacks, claiming the Croatian police were robbing and beating them before illegally returning them back to Bosnia.
These accusations are a repeat earlier ones from not only migrants, but also humanitarian groups, international media, and even Bosnian authorities, who claimed that Croatia was returning migrants back to Bosnia illegally.
The Croatian police, however, has denied all claims of mistreatment and violent conduct.
A mild winter encouraged illegal migrants to continue moving along the so-called Balkan route towards Bosnia’s north-western border with Croatia, and from there onwards to western Europe, and the local police reported that at least 80 people arrive to the Una-Sana Canton every day, adding there was no room to accommodate them and no money to hire more officers.
In November last year, several hundred locals in Bihac staged a protest against the presence of migrants in their city, saying the government had abandoned them and they had to deal with the crisis themselves. The organiser of the protest, Sejo Ramic, said then that Bihac had been turned into a giant migrant centre and that the government, as well as the EU, were to blame for the situation.
Ruznic recently echoed Kljajic’s concerns as well, saying that there was fear in Bihac that the situation may escalate.
“The worst is yet to come,” Ruznic said.