Thousands of migrants and refugees stuck in bitter Balkan winter

The United Nations says thousands of migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty urgently need proper shelter and care in Bosnia-Herzegovina after weeks outdoors in the freezing cold. With authorities declining to open more adequate facilities, many are now sheltered in unheated tents or sleeping rough near the northern town of Bihac.

By Stefan J. Bos

Snow brings even more misery for thousands of desperate refugees and others escaping difficulties. Some of them walk in sandals in the bitter Balkan winter, trying to find shelter. But it isn’t easy. About 2,500 people are suffering in unheated tents or sleeping rough near the northern town of Bihac. Local authorities have refused to reopen a nearby reception center.

Many are now stuck for days in a burnt-out camp lacking necessary facilities. At the Lipa campsite, they try to warm up around fires. Authorities and the army scramble to finish setting up some 20 military tents meant to accommodate them.

Several migrants don’t even wear socks or winter jackets as they wait to receive food parcels from aid groups. Mohammad Jasar, from much warmer Pakistan, is barely coping with the winter weather. “It’s too cold,” said Mohammad Jasar, from Pakistan. “We have too much trouble here in (the) Lipa camp.”