E.t was a desperate appeal. Over and over again this week, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell talked to Milorad Dodik, the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the phone. “It takes sustainable solutions,” said Borrell. More refugee centers should be opened, spread across the country, he said. In addition, the accommodation must be winter-proof, which is ultimately “a prerequisite for humane living conditions”.
Then the former Spanish foreign minister tried it with a swipe: If the Western Balkans country does not finally improve the situation of the refugees, this would have “serious consequences” for the reputation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Is this hidden threat of any use? The EU has transferred around 90 million euros to Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2018, so that the small country (3.3 million inhabitants) invests in infrastructure and the miserable living conditions of migrants on site improved. Just two weeks ago, Brussels added another 3.5 million euros.
But where has all that money gone? Suhret Fazlic, the mayor of Bihac, recently told Deutsche Welle: “The European Union paid so much money for Bosnia during the migration crisis. But Bihac has never seen a single euro. We had to make do with our own resources. ”
It is unclear whether this statement is really true. What is undisputed, however, is that in Bihac, right on the EU’s doorstep and only 1200 kilometers from Berlin, one of the worst refugee tragedies of recent years is taking place in these weeks.
According to an internal report by the EU Commission from the middle of this week, which is available to WELT, 1,900 migrants are camping in the open near the former refugee camp Lipa, near Bihac. Their tents are mostly made of plastic sheeting and sawed-off tree trunks. Small fires burn in front of it. The report points out that temperatures drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius at night.
No water, no sanitary facilities
“The sanitary facilities are not yet in operation because there are no water connections. Because of the lack of sanitary facilities, many people suffer from skin diseases, and some people also have Covid-19 symptoms, ”the confidential document says.
The Bosnian army got last quickly 20 heated tents However, according to the EU report, they have a catch: “Unfortunately, not all tents are in perfect condition and migrants complain that water leaks through holes and the air is polluted because the heating systems are powered by fuel and there are no fans . “
The Lipa camp had been cleared by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shortly before Christmas because the Bosnian authorities had not made it winter-proof. Shortly afterwards, the tents burned out, according to reports at the time, residents had started the fire themselves out of anger.
The attempt by the Bosnian authorities to take the people to a former barracks in Bradina in the south of the country failed due to resistance from residents and local authorities. The migrants were then taken back to the burned-out Lipa camp.
In a further internal report from the beginning of this year, the EU made serious allegations of the government and authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina – the country absolutely wants to join the European Union at some point -: “It must be repeated that EU policy was consistent and coherent , and the EU provided all financial resources that were needed. The authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina have not followed the advice and assessments of the EU, international partners and other organizations at various levels. The country is facing the same problem for the third year in a row. ”
The EU points out that the last meeting of high EU representatives and the ambassadors from Austria, Germany and Italy with the Bosnian security minister took place on December 2nd, in which the unsustainable situation in the Lipa refugee camp.
Just this week, Borrell’s spokesman, Peter Stano, also called for a “sustainable migration system” to be created in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is currently home to around 8,000 migrants. Brussels has also sent EU officials to Bosnia who recently reported a “catastrophic situation” on the ground.
There are now minor improvements. In the past few days, it has become easier for most migrants to be treated by a doctor. Previously there was no suitable room for this.
Ska Keller, the leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, blames the EU despite all efforts. “The EU clearly shares responsibility for the situation in Bosnia. The refugees who stranded there were often violent and illegally escaped Croatia pushed back, ”said Keller WELT.
The EU is shifting the problem “with more than questionable methods” to Bosnia-Herzegovina – a country in which there are already many problems. What is needed is an immediate end to illegal displacement in Croatia and a real European asylum system based on solidarity, which will not leave people in need or individual people in the lurch, continued Keller. Europe should “not turn a blind eye to the inhumane conditions” under which people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also on the Greek island of Lesbos, would have to live.