First snow, cold mean more hardship for migrants in Bosnia

VELIKA KLADUSA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Their long journeys already filled with uncertainty and hardship, migrants stranded in Bosnia are now facing one more adversity — a cold Balkan winter.

As the first snow of the season fell this week, many migrants staying in make-shift tent settlements in western Bosnia have been struggling to stay dry and warm.

Cobbled together from pieces of nylon and propped up with sticks, the migrant tents outside the town of Velika Kladusa are a poor cover for the people staying inside.

Bent under heavy snow, the tents are wet and cold while small fires offered meagre comfort. Migrants are wearing woollen caps and rain coats, but that is not enough.

“It is very cold now, last night (we had a) very big problem,” said 30-year-old Shahin from Bangladesh, who gave only his first name as is usual for migrants crossing borders illegally. “We are suffering very much, we have no sleeping place.”

Migrants often travel for months, if not years, from the Middle East, Africa or Asia to reach Western Europe.

Thousands have been stuck in Bosnia, mostly in the west of the country that borders European Union member state Croatia. Migrants seeking to reach Croatia follow illegal routes over mountain passes allegedly facing pushbacks and violence in the hands of Croatia’s police.

Bosnia,, which went through a devastating war in the 1990s, has been struggling with the influx. Facilities for migrants are full and the country’s feuding politicians have failed to agree on a more comprehensive approach to the crisis.

At the make-shift camp in Polje, near Velika Kladusa, the snow apparently caught the migrants by surprise as they had left their belongings unprotected — clothes that had been hung out to dry after washing were blanketed with snow, and boots and shoes were wet inside and out.

Huddling by the fires on Wednesday, some migrants were trying to cook some food, dry their clothes or just warm their hands in the biting cold.

Ahmed, 22, who is also from Bangladesh and who was wearing a face mask as protection from the new coronavirus, said he is staying outside because he couldn’t find a place in the official camps.

With the snow and cold weather arriving, the situation is “impossible,” he said.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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