The Lipa camp or the story of an announced disaster. For thirteen days, 900 people have braved the rain, wind, snow and mercury below 0 ° C in the mountains of the canton of Una Sana in the north-west of Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the border with Croatia . On December 23, the indigent Lipa camp was completely destroyed by an arson shortly after the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in charge of its management, was forced to leave the premises.
“Our withdrawal was planned”, says Peter Van der Auweraert, the IOM official based in the nearby town of Bihac. Lipa camp was hastily established last April, amid the pandemic, to house migrants taking the Balkan route.
He had remained, since, without running water, neither electricity, nor heating. “The pressure on the authorities since the spring to equip this camp for the harsh winters has been in vain. The European Union announced in September that it would stop funding the operation of the camp under these conditions. Which was done on November 30. One of the tents then collapsed under the weight of the snow, fortunately without causing any injuries ”, explains Peter Van der Auweraert.
IOM therefore packed up, after having distributed sleeping bags and warm clothes, with the idea that the 1,400 migrants then present in the camp would be safer in the various squats of Bihac, located 25 kilometers from Lipa, in expecting better. What 500 of them managed to do. The other 900, blocked by police roadblocks, were returned to Lipa. Half of them were to be met by the center of Bradina 250 kilometers further south. But faced with the opposition of a few dozen residents, they were again sent back to Lipa.
“It’s a nightmarish scenario”, worries Peter Van der Auweraert, who hardly hides his pessimism. Because operational accommodation centers exist, namely the Bradina camp, and that of Bira, in Bihac, which has 1,500 to 2,000 places but which the city authorities closed before the local elections last October. .
Both could accommodate the 900 migrants from Lipa, the thousand others scattered in the squats of Bihac, and several hundred on the streets elsewhere in the country. “We have the money, the assistance, the centers available, but we come up against dissensions between the local, regional and federal political authorities”, he laments.
In three years, with the support of Europe, the United States and the Danish Refugee Council, reception capacities for 8,000 people have been created making it possible to receive more or less all the migrants present on the site. Bosnian soil.
Faced with the emergency in Lipa, the European Commission on January 3 released additional aid of 3.5 million euros, in addition to the 4.5 million euros allocated last April. “The situation in Una Sana canton is unacceptable”, said Vice President Josep Borrell indignantly. “The local authorities must make available the existing facilities and provide a temporary solution until the Lipa camp is rebuilt into a permanent facility”, he pleaded.
Called to the rescue, the army has erected a dozen tents in Lipa, and must start repairing the road and supplying water and electricity. But according to Peter Van der Auweraert, “The tents, erected on the ground, are unusable and do not provide a solution for the professionals.chains days and weeks to come ”.