Brawl Among Migrants in Bosnia Kills 2, Injures 18

October 1, 2020 Updated: October 1, 2020

SARAJEVO—Two migrants were killed in a brawl in northwest Bosnia as regional authorities emptied a migrant reception center in the town of Bihac and moved hundreds to a camp 50 km (30 miles) away, police said on Thursday.

Eighteen other migrants were injured, 10 of them seriously, in the violence late on Wednesday evening involving migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Ale Siljdedic, spokesman for the Bihac regional police. The migrants were fighting each other, not local police, he said.

Bosnia has become a key transit route for migrants and refugees from Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa since European Union countries shut their borders to new arrivals in 2015. Many migrants have made their way to Bosnia’s northwest hoping to slip into EU member Croatia just to the west.

Migrants walk towards the Bosnia-Croatia border
Migrants walk towards the Bosnia-Croatia border in hopes of slipping across it, near Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, on Sept. 29, 2020. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

There are up to 10,000 migrants in Bosnia at present, a quarter of whom sleep rough in the woods, abandoned buildings, and by roadsides.

Regional authorities in northwest Bosnia have begun closing migrant centers in towns, saying they are overcrowded and that other regions in the country should share the migrant load.

On Wednesday night, they moved 350 people from Bihac to the Lipa camp, which was already full with some 1,000 people. The newcomers were deposited outside the camp, leaving them to spend the night in the cold, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which operates seven camps in Bosnia.

The EU delegation in Bosnia condemned the migrants’ transfer to an emergency camp at Lipa that was already at full capacity.

“As a result, hundreds of people are left in harsh weather conditions without shelter and access to basic assistance. These irresponsible actions put lives at risk,” it said in a statement.

It urged Bosnia’s national authorities to intervene to prevent a humanitarian crisis from unfolding and ensure shelter for all those in need including unaccompanied minors.

By Daria Sito-Sucic