A group of migrants set fire to the Lipa Reception Camp in northwestern Bosnia, after most of the migrant population left the location, which was expected to close down on Wednesday, the Head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Peter Van Der Auweraert announced.
The IOM high official took to Twitter to announce that no casualties have been reported thus far, describing the new development as a “disaster.”
Disaster upon disaster in #Lipa #Bihac #BiH – as far as we know now a group of former residents put three tents and containers on fire after most of the migrants had left the camp. Luckily no casualties to our knowledge at this point but disaster nevertheless @UNmigration @UN_BiH pic.twitter.com/Ro7vtUFkcy
— Peter Van der Auweraert (@PeterAuweraert) December 23, 2020
The camp was initially set to close down last weekend, however the closure was postponed several times, as the Bosnia and Herzegovina state-level authorities were expected to find a solution to the accommodation of more than 1,300 migrants currently staying in this informal settlement.
Migrants staying at Lipa had no access to electricity, running water or sewage. The camp also provided no adequate protection against winter weather conditions.
Although the BiH Council of Ministers officially approved on Monday the establishment of the temporary Lipa Reception Center, which would consist of adapted shipping containers with a capacity to house 1,500 migrants in the Bihac area, the IOM said the potential works in the camp could not be conducted while the migrants were still there.
Locals in the nearby town Bihac, however, rejected the potential of the ‘Bira’ camp reopening, after it shut down in late September in order to keep migrants away from urban areas.
The United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) expresses its concern with the lack of an agreeable solution for winter preparation of the Lipa Emergency Tent Camp, which for health and safety reasons necessitates the effective closure of the facility today, adversely impacting 1,200 people on the move.
The UN estimates that, with at least an additional 1,500 migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees -including women and children- already stranded in squats and forest camps, mostly in the Una-Sana Canton (USC), the lack of an immediate solution rises the overall number of people in dire need of humanitarian aid to almost 3,000.
“While the UN and its partners, including the Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council, work daily to alleviate the plight of the stranded people with life-saving items and food parcels, this situation is unsustainable and risks further high pressure on the local communities and humanitarian workers.
The United Nations fully recognises the efforts invested by the BiH line institutions and the considerable support and solidarity of local communities in the USC. However, the UN urges the line authorities to immediately engage in the winterisation of the Lipa Emergency Tent Camp and offer an alternative shelter option while the work is being conducted,” stressed the UN Mission to BiH.
The UN also calls on the state authorities to identify and make available new locations, preferably outside the Una Sana and Sarajevo Cantons, for people stranded outdoors with temperatures below freezing. The UN is ready to support the authorities in these efforts.
“The United Nations believes this is an avoidable situation as capacities and funds for solutions are available. What is immediately needed are clear and agreed solutions, in order to ensure better management of the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in BiH. The UN remains committed to supporting the BiH authorities and the local communities in these efforts,” the UN Mission concluded. /ibna