Bosnia starts to close controversial migrant camp

Bihac (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (AFP) –


Bosnian authorities on Tuesday began to move several hundred migrants out of a ramshackle camp near the Croatian border following international condemnation of the site's inhumane conditions.

The migrants, mostly men from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, boarded buses at the Vucjak camp in northwest Bosnia, according to an AFP photographer.

Local authorities say the 350 migrants will be temporarily housed at an official centre outside the capital Sarajevo -- a destination far from the Croatian border that the migrants want to cross to reach the European Union.

The Vucjak camp, a cluster of tents that lack running water, heating or proper toilets, was set up close to the border in June.

The site immediately drew international criticism for being on top of a landfill, in an area littered with mines from the 1990s Balkans war.

Over the past six months, thousands of migrants have used it as base for attempted border crossings.

According to Bosnian Red Cross official Selam Midzic, nearly 25,000 migrants have passed through the camp.

The decision to close the site came after Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, visited last week and warned of potential deaths if the camp was not closed immediately, especially as temperatures have plunged as winter sets in.

According to local reports, several hundred migrants have set out in recent days in last-ditch attempts to enter Croatia and continue westward into the EU.

Bosnia's security minister says migrants who have been moved out of the camp will eventually be housed at a new centre under construction in a former army barracks near Sarajevo.

Some 8,000 migrants are currently in Bosnia, whose official UN-run migrant centres can hold up to 5,000 people.

The impoverished country has become a key stop on a migrant route that runs through the Balkans to Western Europe.

While most migrants eventually move on, Croatian police push many back at least temporarily, leaving them stuck in Bosnia for long periods of time.