Amnesty International (AI) reacted strongly to the new decisions adopted by the FBiH Authorities of the Una-Sana Canton to forcefully transfer and detain thousands of migrants living in the area to inadequate camp facilities in Lipa.
“Forcing people, many of whom are already vulnerable, into a hastily set up remote tent facility without ensuring adequate access to water and sanitation, spaces to self-isolate and accessible medical care is inhumane and will expose people at a greater risk of infection and preventable deaths”, AI Europe Deputy Director Massimo Moratti stated.
He added that confining people in potentially harmful conditions could not be justified on the grounds of public health. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, he stressed that the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had a responsibility to address the needs of all marginalized groups and ensure humane living conditions, including access to water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as appropriate medical care for all people, including migrants and asylum-seekers.
“Restrictions upon the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers in the context of the COVID-19 public health emergency must be lawful, necessary and proportionate and should not discriminate against or put at risk already marginalized people. These measures fail on all counts”, Moratti continued.
AI recalled that thousands of refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers trying to make their way into Europe are currently stranded in the Una-Sana Canton in the North-West part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While about 4,100 of them are being accommodated in the temporary reception facilities managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 3,000 people are sleeping in squats in abandoned buildings or are sleeping rough and are now at risk of being relocated to the Lipa camp.
Following the announcement of the emergency measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across BiH, the local authorities in the Una-Sana Canton ordered the relocation of thousands of refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers currently sleeping rough on the territory of the canton into a temporary camp facility in the village of Lipa which is currently under construction.
In the past, the authorities in the Una-Sana canton had failed to secure adequate conditions for the accommodation of refugees and migrants. The controversial Vucjak tent settlement built on a former landfill and close to a minefield from the Bosnian War in the period 1992-1995, was finally shut down in December and over 600 people were transferred elsewhere following intense protestation by human rights groups and the international community. /ibna