The humanitarian tragedy in Bosnia affects us all

The humanitarian tragedy in Bosnia affects us all

In Lipa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, thousands of migrants evicted from a camp that has caught fire have no refuge and the Balkan winter reaches even -20. Once again Europe and local authorities blame each other

Photo by Amar Mehic / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Europe has learned about a humanitarian catastrophe in Bosnia that has actually been going on for years, but on which only now have the spotlights turned on. Thousands of migrants find themselves living in the snow and in temperatures reaching 20 degrees below zero, in some cases barefoot or in clothes completely unsuitable for the weather. Their houses are at best small torn tents set up amidst the mud and ice, at worst blankets spread out on the ground in the woods on the border with Croatia. A situation that is not new, but that has become topical after the fire that destroyed the Lipa refugee camp on 23 December and left thousands of migrants without a reference point.

In reality the situation in Lipa was already precarious. The International Organization for Migration had made the decision to close the camp due to the poor state in which it was kept by its managers. The fire speeded up the evacuation process, but the problem is that the guests were unable to find any alternative accommodation solutions. In the midst of the icy Balkan winter, therefore, thousands of migrants found themselves on the street, or worse in the middle of the local forests, filling the already large number of refugees who found themselves in this situation. What is underway in Bosnia is a very heavy humanitarian tragedy, which has been going on for years and of which a new, even more tragic, chapter is now simply being written.

Nobody took responsibility for the situation. The European Union points the finger at the Bosnian authorities, accused of having received a lot of funding in recent years to prepare reception solutions but of having done nothing also because of the protests of the local communities. Sarajevo, on the other hand, underlines the impossibility of carrying all the weight of the substantial Balkan route on one's shoulders. It is the usual rebound of responsibility that we have now made the call for when it comes to policies for the management of migration flows and reception in Europe and, of course, the truth lies somewhere in between. If it is true that Bosnia is managing the ongoing tragedy in an inhumane way, it is undeniable that part of the causes of the problem must be sought further up, that is, in Brussels.

The European Union cannot think that spilling money outside its borders could be the way to close the migration practice and feel with a clear conscience. The problem lies upstream, that is, in the way in which these people are denied all freedom of movement, making them collide with a wall that, even if you can't see it, seems insurmountable. The disastrous situation in Bosnia is dictated by the fact that the local authorities have not been able to set up dignified reception policies, but also by the often violent push-backs carried out by Croatia, which unlike Sarajevo is part of the EU.

As the Balkan route continues to be alive and strengthened, migrants bounce off the wall of the European Union and find themselves trapped in that gray area made up of inhumanity and human rights violations that is Bosnia, but which could also be Libya. The fact that today we are talking so much about the Balkan situation does not in fact eliminate the same problem that systematically occurs in other access points of Europe, all over the Mediterranean. As Brussels finances Libya to do its part in managing the migration route, so it does with Sarajevo, but the result is always the same: the refugees find themselves in inhumane conditions.

The real problem is that once again there is a lack of courageous and shared policy at the level of the European Union to address the humanitarian challenge. As long as pushbacks are the norm, the situation will continue to worsen and no funding will ever cancel this. Rather, the cradle of democracy that professes to be the European Union must guarantee freedom of movement to the invisible trapped in the Balkan cold through humanitarian corridors, offering them shared reception solutions and without dumping everything on the countries on its border. In the face of the terrible photos and videos that come to us from the Balkan winter, but also in the face of the continuous tragedies that ricochet between the Mediterranean Sea and the Libyan prison camps, one cannot continue to look the other way.

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