Bosnia and Herzegovina

Yet They Exist

Faces of refugees come out of the dark in Lipa camp

There are more than a thousand of them, refugees who mostly fled from Pakistan and Afghanistan and have been rejected by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy over the past few months. They are still living in the Lipa camp, in Bosnia, despite the fact that the structure was destroyed by a fire that broke out on December 23, 2020.

Lipa stands twenty kilometers from Bihać, on land made available by the Bosnian town’s authorities in April 2020, at the height of the coronavirus emergency. Refugees had to adapt to being here, because there is no room for them in the official camps. The fire destroyed the camp on the same day that the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which had taken over its management, planned to close it, as it had assessed it as inadequate due to the lack of sewerage facilities, drinking water and electricity.

Yet, despite the fire, migrants could not be transferred. Those who tried to leave Lipa were prevented by the police on the orders of the municipality of Bihać, which does not want migrants in the area.

In 2020 alone, more than 16,000 migrants arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10,000 of whom remained stranded in the country because they were rejected by neighboring countries, or because of border closures imposed by the pandemic. Only 6,000 of them are registered in official refugee camps. Nothing is known of the others.

The inhabitants of Lipa face the winter with the few things they have: a blanket, a shawl, a light jacket, some with just a pair of rubber slippers on their feet. One of them says, “Here in Lipa we are like ghosts, no one remembers we exist.”