Bosnia and Herzegovina: Thousands of migrants lose shelter, after camp destroyed in fire

The United Nations

The closure and subsequent fire, on Wednesday, at a migrant camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina has left thousands of migrants without shelter and protection, amid plummeting winter temperatures, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported.

Nearly all infrastructure at the Lipa Emergency Tent Camp, which housed about 1,400 migrants, has been destroyed or badly damaged. This number is in addition to some 1,500 migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees – including women and children – stranded in squats and forest camps nearby.

With the devastation, the overall number of people in dire need of assistance has swelled to almost 3,000, according to IOM.

“This is a nightmare scenario: these people should be inside in warm conditions, just as the rest of Europe is doing at this holiday time,” Peter Van der Auweraert, IOM Chief of Mission in the country, said on Wednesday.

Situated in north-west Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the border with Croatia, the camp, was built earlier this year in response to over-crowding and unsuitable conditions elsewhere.

“For several reasons, mostly political, it never got connected to the main water or electricity supply, and was never winterized. And now, with this fire, it never will be,” added Mr. Van der Auweraert.

‘Zero additional capacity’

According to Mr. Van der Auweraert, while migrants were still in the local area, some were planning to head to the capital Sarajevo, while others would find places to sleep rough locally.

“What concerns us is that many have said they will go to Sarajevo or Velika Kladuza (further north), but we already know that there is zero additional capacity at any of the shelters for single males. This is likely to drive people to move closer to the border,” he said.

IOM and humanitarian partners Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council have distributed vital supplies, including warm clothes, sleeping bags, food and hygiene kits have already been distributed to 1,500 affected people.

“We are going to step up the number of distribution teams and the quantity of items to try and cover this new caseload,” the IOM official added.

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