Bosnia Fears Becoming New Calais as Migrants Surge Across Border

Migrant men wait in line for their lunch in front of an abandoned school dorm, near the center of the western-Bosnian town of Bihac, on July 4, 2018. (Photo by ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP) (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)

More and more migrants have been surging across the border into Bosnia in recent months, hoping to cross into European Union via Croatia. The influx may be fueling prior tensions between ethnic and religious groups in the country.

The Bosnian town of Bihac and the nearby village of Izačić have become a hub for newly arriving migrants, with an estimated 4,000 currently living in the town which boasts a population of only 60,000, Liberation reports.

Around 50 migrants arrive in the area every day, according to reports and NGOs, and others say they are not fully equipped to deal with the numbers and that tensions are rising among the migrants.

“This place is not safe at night,” a Kurdish migrant living in the area said, adding: “There are fights, knives circulating. The police refuse to intervene.”

The Red Cross is also active in the area helping migrants but, according to official Selam Midzic, everything from tents to food and clothing are in short supply and the organisation says if things do not change before winter, they could be facing a humanitarian disaster.

Since the end of the Bosnian conflict in 1995, the country has largely been divided between the Muslim Bosniaks, who constitute 50 percent of the population, the mostly Orthodox Christian ethnic Serbs, and a smaller minority of mostly Catholic ethnic Croats.

The president of the majority-Serbian autonomous Republic of Srpska, Milorad Dodik, labelled the influx of migrants, the majority of them Muslims, an “invasion”.

“In Republika Srpska, we do not have space to create centres for migrants,” he said.

Suhret Fazlic, mayor of Bihac, claimed that the Republic of Srpska was directly expelling the migrants from their territory and sending them to his town, noting that several Republic of Srpska towns also lie within close proximity to the Croatian border.

“We are afraid to become Calais, to be submerged,” he said, referring to the French city on the English Channel, which has become a launchpad for thousands of often violent illegal migrants seeking passage to the United Kingdom.

According to a report from the Croatian government in May, as many as 60,000 migrants were waiting to break into the European Union via their border.

The migrant issue could further inflame the already heightened tensions in Bosnia between Bosniaks and Serbs, which some, like United Nations High Representative Valentin Inzko, believe has been growing dramatically over the last 12 months.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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