Bosnian New Year

European Diary, 2.1.2021: The European crimes against refugees are richer by one facet. For many months, Croatia in particular has been protecting “our” external borders in an illegal but effective manner. Refugees who manage to get to – and across – the Croatian border via Bosnia, for example, are forcibly pushed back again before they can exercise their right to apply for asylum. While this violates European and international law, even the European Court of Human Rights now looks resignedly (or cynically?) under the table when it comes to European “border protection.” Many of the refugees were initially accommodated in the Bira camp in the town of Bihac, then after “protests from the population”, which are now cheaper to buy in Bosnia than bread rolls, they were shipped in September to a tent camp provisionally set up by the army in “the middle of nowhere”, in Lipa. There, international aid organizations were allowed to take care of the stranded people. The Bosnian authorities promised to connect the improvised camp to electricity and water supplies to make it “winter-proof.” But nothing of the sort happened. Out of sight out of mind.
At the end of December, the frost came. But still no possibility to heat the camp, still no electricity, no water. Nothing at all. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) decided to close the camp, where people would otherwise have frozen to death in the onset of winter. And during the evacuation, some refugees set fire to the ramshackle tents they thought they were finally leaving behind.
Negotiations were made with Bosnian authorities to return the refugees to the Bira camp in Bihac or to barracks in other parts of the country. But local politicians announced that there were “protests from the population.” So 900 people spent the Christmas days in the open. Then, however, the evacuation of the homeless camped refugees was on the agenda. 500 of them were loaded onto buses at the end of the year. And they were stuck there. Because the buses did not run. Local and regional politicians bow to the “protests from the population,” which they themselves have done their best to stir up. And the Republika Srpska is not accepting anyone anyway. After all,”it is the Bosniak Muslims who have brought the migrants into the country”. Whatever is meant by this, this populist slogan always gets through. Any attempt by the central government in Sarajevo to enforce law and order (and in this case that means humane accommodation for the refugees) is thus doomed to failure.

So 500 people spent the last two days of the year in unheated buses. For 24 hours. Then they were let off again. They spent New Year’s Eve in the open air. On New Year’s Day, the Red Cross took care of them. Austria promises “help on the spot”. The Bosnian army puts up tents again. There are plenty of tents. Unheatable, like the ones before. The cynical game continues. The winter too.

Translated with (free version)