European Union threatens to pull migrant funding from Bosnia

Balkan state accused of failing to provide adequate reception centres for asylum seekers

Hossein climbs the mountain together with Rahim and the rest of Afghan migrants during their journey through the forest towards the border with Croatia.
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The European Union has threatened to withdraw migrant support funding for Bosnia over its failure to provide adequate reception centres despite receiving money from Brussels.

Bosnia, which is not a member of the EU, has already been given €60 million (Dh248m) in emergency funding by the bloc, most notably for six migrant centres that currently house more than 6,000 people.

As many as 1,500 migrants are believed to be sleeping rough in the north-western Krajina region, which borders EU-member Croatia, and is the main transit point into the bloc. Others have been held in squalid conditions at a camp on a landfill site close to an uncleared minefield as Croatia has refused to take in migrants.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Bosnian authorities must respect the rule of law and human rights, in a letter to the governor of Krajina seen by Associated Press.

"Should this not be the case, the commission will reconsider its assistance in the area of migration management," she said.

In 2017 Bosnia registered 755 illegal arrivals, but the figure rose to about 30,000 in 2019.

Bosnia has repeatedly promised to identify additional suitable public properties for temporary accommodation of migrants, the letter said, but the local authorities in Krajina have instead recently begun "threatening to close down [existing] reception centres, obstructing the work of our humanitarian partners and forcibly relocating vulnerable persons”.

"Such worrying developments raise very serious concerns with regard to the respect of the rule of law and human rights," it added.

Migrants mostly from Bangladesh are living in an overcrowded room in the Miral camp in Velika Kladusa.
Migrants mostly from Bangladesh are living in an overcrowded room in the Miral camp in Velika Kladusa. JM Lopez / The National

Krajinas Governor Mustafa Ruznic insisted that the migrant camps must be shuttered.

He told AP his primary responsibility is to “protect safety of our citizens.” Krajina “cannot and will not continue to carry the entire burden of the migration crisis,” he said.

Amnesty International recently accused Croatian police of torturing asylum seekers and attacking them with blunt objects.

"The European Union can no longer remain silent and wilfully ignore the violence and abuses by Croatian police on its external borders," said Massimo Moratti, deputy director of Amnesty International's Europe Office, said earlier this month.

“Their silence is allowing, and even encouraging, the perpetrators of this abuse to continue without consequences.”