Two people were killed and 18 wounded, 10 severely, in a serious clash that erupted between two large groups of migrants in the northwest Bosnian town of Bihac on Wednesday night.
Police in the Una-Sana Canton, to which Bihac belongs, said the fight started between rival groups of migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan behind the cantonal hospital, where some migrants have erected an informal settlement that acts a transit point for a trail to the border with EU-member Croatia.
“Police went to the scene and at that moment between 70 and 80 migrants were found injured. It was a conflict between a group of migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan. All the injured and dead are citizens of Pakistan – their identity is not yet known. In consultation with the prosecutor, it was confirmed that this is a criminal act of murder,” Ale Siljdedic, from the cantonal Interior Ministry, told the media.
He added that 10 of the 18 injured Pakistanis were seriously injured. “All the injuries were inflicted with a knife, as well as with blunt objects, like wooden sticks,” Siljdedic said.
Pakistani migrants staying at the improvised camp told police that while they were preparing for the “game”, the code word for an attempt to cross into Croatia illegally, a group of Afghan migrants had attacked them.
Siljdedic said it would be hard to investigate the case because many of the migrants who took part in the conflict had fled the scene, probably through a nearby forest.
In the meantime, Una-Sana Canton police on Wednesday evening closed the Bira camp for illegal migrants in Bihac, which until recently was the largest such camp in Bosnia.
Inmates were relocated to the Lipa camp, about 20 kilometres west of Bihac. Others went to Sarajevo, while a smaller group decided to try their luck and head to the Croatian border.
Eighty-one underage migrants were relocated to another camp in Bihac, Camp Borici, where families with children are located.
“As of tonight, there is not one migrant in the Bira reception centre,” Nermin Kljajic, Una-Sana Canton Interior Minister told the media on Wednesday evening, adding that the relocation of the migrants had been conducted without difficulties.
However, problems have since arisen at Camp Lipa, where there is not enough space for all the migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration, IOM, which runs the camp.
Petr Van der Auweraert, the head of IOM in Bosnia and Sub-regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans, warned on Twitter that the 350 migrants brought from Bira to Lipa would “spend the night (and coming nights) in the cold without shelter, sadly, inhumanely and unnecessarily“.
Van der Auweraert posted a video on Twitter with a message: “In front of the migrant centre Lipa now: 350 people with nowhere to go. IOM in Bosnia calls upon state authorities (only ones competent to open/close accommodation) to provide a solution for tohse+approx 2500 other migrants and refugees forced to sleep outside.”
When BIRN visited Camp Lipa in early September, the camp’s capacity was already exceeded. The temporary camp, built for 1,000 migrants, by then housed 1,178 people and several hundred more in the surrounding forest.
Authorities in Una-Sana Canton decided earlier this week to shut Bira, which has accommodated more than a thousand migrants over the past two years. They announced that their next step would be to shut down Camp Miral in the nearby town of Velika Kladusa.
According to the IOM, there are about 7,500 registered migrants in Bosnia. It is estimated that another 3,000 or so have not been registered. More are continuing to arrive across the poorly controlled border from Serbia and Montenegro.