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Refugees in Bosnia becoming sick after spending days in makeshift tents without heating

REFUGEES at a camp in north-western Bosnia have complained of picking up respiratory and skin infections after spending days in makeshift tents and containers during freezing weather and snowstorms, aid workers have warned.

Most of the hundreds of migrants stuck at the Lipa facility near Bosnia and Herzegovina’s border with Croatia have been accommodated in heated military tents after a fire gutted most of the camp on December 23.

The former Yugoslav republic has faced sharp criticism for leaving about 1,000 people without shelter after the blaze. The authorities initially said that they would move the migrants to another location ended up setting up military tents at the site instead.

Amnesty International called today for a sustainable and durable solution for the migrants in Bosnia. The human rights NGO said that political bickering has marred efforts to deal with the crisis facing people fleeing war and poverty in their nations.

“Accommodation is available to house most of the people currently sleeping rough in bitterly cold temperatures in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s European institutions office. “What is lacking is the political will to make that happen.”

Ms Geddie added that the current crisis is also “a consequence of the EU’s policy of fortifying its borders that has left thousands of people stranded on its periphery or in the neighbouring countries.”

Weather forecasters warned today of even colder weather in the coming days.

The Lipa site also lacks basic facilities such as electricity or running water, forcing migrants to keep fires buring for days to protect themselves from the biting cold.

Many camp residents said that they haven't showered in a long time, while others have washed outside despite the cold.

On Monday, doctors screened migrants’ health and handed out medicines. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any camp residents might have Covid-19, said Verica Racevic of the Danish Refugee Council.

“Some are under the system of febrile status, which means they have a temperature,” she said.

“It’s not really easy to differentiate in those circumstances whether this is Covid-19 or this is any other kind of respiratory infection.”

Impoverished and ethnically divided Bosnia has struggled with an influx of thousands of people trying to reach western Europe through the Balkans.

Aid groups estimate that hundreds of people have been sleeping rough in abandoned houses or improvised forest camps.

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