The EU special envoy for Bosnia calls the situation in the burned-out refugee camp near Lipa “unacceptable”. And Johann Sattler is right. Hundreds of refugees camp outside, spend the night in the snow, exposed to frostbite. On the site, which is largely uninhabitable, there was and is no electricity, no running water, no heating. None of this existed before the fire on December 23, which was the reason why the International Organization for Migration, which ran the camp on the border with Croatia, ended its involvement in protest at the ignorance of the Bosnian authorities.
There were and are, however, alternatives where the refugees could be taken. But the resistance of the population is stronger than the will of the authorities to get things done. And all of this happens after the EU has paid more than 85 million euros to Bosnia since 2018 to deal with the refugee crisis, which has apparently at least partially seeped away in obscure channels. As the Special Envoy says, “ Unacceptable.”
That the EU, on the one hand, finds the situation in Bosnia unbearable, but at least finds the situation on the Greek islands so in order that nothing is being done about it – that is worse than unacceptable. This is hubris, arrogance, self-righteousness. Bosnia is – yet – not a member of the European Union. Greece is. On Lesbos and Samos, refugees sit in cold and mud, without heating, without running water. The EU is responsible for them.
What is more than unacceptable is to look the other way when thousands are cold and suffering; to look away when boats are being towed back towards Turkey in the Aegean Sea; to look the other way when refugees in Croatia are violently brought across the border into Bosnia; To look the other way when people drown in the Mediterranean – due to the lack of state rescue operations and the active handicap of civil aid workers. This is a permanent, collectively sanctioned disregard for human rights, based on the horrific conviction that only defense and isolation can counteract the often invoked “pull effect” that is feared in many European capitals as much as in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
To boast about the “closure of the Balkan route” only to then outsource the problem of migrants stranded on the EU’s southern border to non-EU countries is hypocritical. Linking offers of aid to the condition that they like families but not young men is cynical. Appealing to the government in Sarajevo to improve the living conditions for “their” refugees and to let their “own” refugees hibernate in the mud on Greek islands is outrageous.