Bosnia refugee camp ‘inhumane’, human rights Commissioner says

bosnia refugee camp Vučjak
© iStock/Olga Gont

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for the closure of the Vučjak refugee camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Vučjak camp, built over a former waste dump on the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, houses more than 1,000 refugees. It is surrounded by minefields established during the Bosnian war in the 1990s and has no running water, sanitation or electricity. In a press conference, Commissioner Mijatović said: “The living conditions of hundreds of human beings in the improvised Vučjak camp are shameful. That camp should have never been opened in the first place.”

The Commissioner, who spent four days in Bosnia and Herzegovina to assess the country’s treatment of migrants and refugees, added: “It is now urgent to relocate these people and provide them with decent accommodations. I was assured by the State Minister of Security that this relocation is imminent. The living conditions in Vučjak were already terrible before the cold weather and have become even more inhumane now that temperatures have dropped below freezing. Human beings, including several minors, are amassed in the mud on a former landfill next to landmined areas. They have no running water and sanitary and hygienic conditions are dire. Many people lack adequate clothing and footwear. It is inhumane and unacceptable to keep people in such conditions.”

Commissioner Mijatović went on to express concern over the living conditions of refugees and migrants throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, highlighting the situation in Bira in the North of the country, where around 1,800 refugees are currently living in an abandoned refrigerator factory. She called for immediate action from Bosnian authorities both in the short and long term to improve the facilities available for refugees and migrants; and drew attention to reports of violence committed by law enforcement officials against refugees trying to cross into Croatia, saying: “I was particularly alarmed by stories of migrants being beaten and stripped of their belongings, including their shoes, and forced to walk across rough terrain to return back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

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