Sarajevo (AFP) – The European Commission provided Bosnia on Thursday with 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million) to help the impoverished country cope with an influx of migrants passing through on their way towards Western Europe.
“The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Bosnia-Herzegovina has increased and we must act swiftly,” the European Union’s aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said.
The funds should help the Balkan country to meet the migrants’ “basic needs and provide emergency shelter, food and health assistance, as well as protection,” he said in a statement.
More than 5,500 illegal migrants have entered Bosnia since the start of the year, particularly young men, but lately also families with children, notably from Iran and Pakistan.
Their number still does not compare with the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa who arrived in Europe in 2015-16 using the so-called Balkans route.
The route was closed in March 2016 but small numbers of people, seeking alternative ways, still cross the region to reach the European Union.
They gather in northwestern Bosnia, in Bihac and Velika Kladusa, near the border with EU member Croatia.
Meanwhile, police officials from southeastern Europe pledged Thursday in Sarajevo to cooperate to avoid a humanitarian crisis feared by non-governmental organisations.
“The joint view is … that 2015 and migrations from that time cannot happen again at any price,” Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic told reporters after their meeting.
Slovenia’s top interior ministry official Bostjan Stefic voiced his country’s concern over the rise in number of illegal migrants.
“Our first task is to protect EU borders,” he said, warning it was “high time that we all together ensure that these migrations be under control.”
Since the start of the migrant crisis in the Balkans three years ago, Brussels has allocated more than 25 million euros to Serbia and over four million euros to Macedonia to help them deal with the issue.