Local authorities and residents will not allow for the migrants from the destroyed Lipa tent camp to be accommodated in the former factory Bira in downtown Bihac under any circumstances, the mayor of the northwestern town, Suhret Fazlic, told N1.
Fazlic said that he was informed that Bosnia’s Council of Ministers is about to request the transfer of the migrants to Bira, adding that such a move would represent a “humiliation” and “an attack on us and on Bihac.”
“We cannot allow that,” Fazlic said, adding that this has now turned into an issue of the functionality of the state and its “attitude” towards Bihac and the people living there.
“If this is allowed, the security of not only the migrants but also the citizens will be severely compromised. After all the moves of the Ministry of Security and the Council of Ministers, this now represents the last straw and we will not allow it to happen,” he said.
Hundreds returned to Lipa camp
Some 900 migrants were returned to Lipa on Wednesday after a failed attempt to relocate them to another location.
Lipa, however, was officially shut down last week as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) pulled out of the camp since the migrants staying there had no access to electricity, running water or sewage. The camp also did not provide shelter from the extreme weather conditions in the winter.
As the migrants were leaving the camp last Wednesday, a fire broke out at the camp and destroyed most of the tents.
The Council of Ministers approved last week an initiative to officially establish the Lipa camp, which would consist of adapted shipping containers able to house 1,500 migrants in the Bihac area. But until the works are completed, the migrants can not stay there.
This is why the Security Ministry asked local authorities in the Una-Sana Canton (USK) and the town of Bihac to accommodate the migrants at Bira.
Bira camp shut down due to pressure from locals
The Bira migrant reception centre was, however, shut down in late September due to pressure from the local population and now locals strongly oppose reopening it.
Fazlic told N1 that he was standing near the Bira centre together with locals and that they will remain there throughout the evening to prevent the transfer of the migrants to the facility.
Bihac authorities would be prepared to accommodate the migrants at Lipa and provide them with medical attention but using Bira is out of the question, he said.