Red Cross warns of worsening conditions and violence against migrants as thousands remain stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo/Budapest/Geneva, 19 July 2018 – Dozens of people are being treated daily for injuries sustained while attempting to cross from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Croatia, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

More than 8,000 people have arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the start of the year – eight times the number who arrived in 2017. This includes 3,000 who have arrived in the past four weeks. Most people are in the country’s north west, close to the border with Croatia, with at least 700 sleeping in a derelict building in Bihac town.

In Bihac, first aid teams from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Red Cross are treating up to 70 people per day – many of whom have suffered injuries while attempting to cross the border into Croatia.

IFRC spokesperson in Bihac, Nicole Robicheau, said: “The conditions close to the border are grossly inadequate and we’re concerned for people’s safety. Families are sleeping on the ground without any proper shelter, without bedding or blankets - people don’t want to stay here but they are effectively stranded. Each day, people try to move onwards to Croatia but many return with injuries.”

Red Cross teams in Bihac are providing support including first aid, food, clothes, and information. But with hundreds of people arriving or transiting through the region each week, local resources have been overwhelmed. In late June, IFRC released 200,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster local efforts.

“We are seeing a rise in the number of families arriving which is a cause for concern,” said Robicheau. “One woman who arrived this week gave birth on the way here. These conditions are dire for anyone but families with young children are among the most vulnerable.”

Last week, IFRC released a report – New Walled Order – identifying a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. Such factors range from the overt – including the fear of harassment, arrest or deportation – to the less obvious, which can include prohibitive costs, cultural and linguistic barriers, and a lack of information about their rights.

“We are extremely concerned about reports of violence against people trying to make their way into Croatia,” said IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, Simon Missiri. “Governments have the right to set and enforce migration policies, but they also have the obligation to ensure that all people, regardless of immigration status, are treated with dignity and respect.

A desire to control one’s border does not justify violence.”

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