Migrants set fire to tents and looted equipment from the Lipa migrant camp in Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to police, after aid agencies decided to close down the facility, BBC News reported.
The Lipa migrant facility is located in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s north-western city of Bihac, and was created to provide shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to BBC News. Aid groups and agencies decided to shut down the camp because it was not possible to sustain the facility without water and electricity, according to BBC News. Authorities distributed food and sleeping bags as the migrant residents evacuated the camp, BBC News reported.
Thousands of migrants will be sleeping rough tonight in Bosnia after the Lipa Emergency Camp was closed earlier today.
— IOM – UN Migration (@UNmigration) December 23, 2020
However, migrants angered by the decision to shut down the facility because of the lack of water and electricity quickly returned to the camp and proceeded to set fire to tents and loot equipment, police said. (RELATED: Experts Expect A Migrant Surge At The Border. Here’s How President-Elect Joe Biden May Address It)
Others who had to leave the facility established campsites in a nearby forest or found shelter in abandoned buildings, BBC News reported.
The United Nations’ Office for Migration (IOM) blamed the closure of the camp on political factors. “For several reasons, mostly political, it never got connected to the main water or electricity supply,” the IOM said in a Wednesday statement.
The Lipa migration facility was initially established due to “overcrowding and unsuitable conditions elsewhere,” the IOM said.
The IOM’s statement said migrants started fires just minutes after the closure of the camp, while pointing out the camp’s closure left around 1,400 migrants “stranded,” as reported by BBC News. The closure nearly doubled the total number of those in the area in need of humanitarian aid to 3,000, according to BBC News.
Peter van der Auweraert, the Western Balkans coordinator for the IOM, said the fires damaged “pretty much all infrastructure,” BBC News reported. Van der Auweraert added it was a “terrible day.”
Disaster upon disaster in #Lipa #Bihac #BiH – as far as we know now a group of former residents put three tents and containers on fire after most of the migrants had left the camp. Luckily no casualties to our knowledge at this point but disaster nevertheless @UNmigration @UN_BiH pic.twitter.com/Ro7vtUFkcy
— Peter Van der Auweraert (@PeterAuweraert) December 23, 2020
“What concerns us is that many have said they will go to Sarajevo or [the border town of] Velika Kladuza,” van der Auweraert said. “We already know that there is zero additional capacity at any of the shelters,” he added.
Because of border closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, migrants from middle eastern countries such as Afghanistan and Syria have been stranded in Bosnia-Herzegovina on their way to the European Union (EU), BBC News reported. Many of these migrants were hoping to enter the EU through Croatia, according to BBC News.