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From Tragedy to Opportunity: New Centre to Help Stranded Migrants Opens in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Now sheltered for winter, migrants from Pakistan enjoy a game of cricket at the new Lipa migrant centre. Photo: IOM BiH   Officials tour the facilities in the new migrant centre which offers accommodation, medical care and  other services for 1,500 people. © IOM BiH

Bihać – A new reception centre catering to the needs of up to 1,500 stranded migrants opened today in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a key staging post for people trying to reach the European Union.

Supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the centre in Lipa, in north-western Una-Sana canton, replaces the former COVID-19 emergency tent shelter there which was destroyed by fire in December 2020, when about 1,400 migrants were left without shelter and protection.

“The opening of this new Lipa centre is a critical step towards a more State-owned migration response,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM's Chief of Mission in BiH and sub-regional coordinator for the Western Balkans.

“Today we are turning a tragedy into an opportunity. Offering humane accommodation is just one step within a wider migration governance strategy which will increasingly focus on the early identification and provision of sustainable solutions to all those who are stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” she said at the official opening ceremony.

The new container-type facility provides humanitarian aid, including accommodation, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as protection services and medical care. It is run by the BiH Service for Foreigners’ Affairs under the Ministry of Security, with support from IOM, UN agencies and NGO partners.

The first snowfalls are expected in the area next week after a mild autumn, making the opening of the centre particularly timely for the single males, families, and unaccompanied children who will be spared another bitter winter sleeping rough.

One 22-year-old migrant from Pakistan said he has been in Bosnia for two months. “This new camp is good. We now have good food and the people working here are very kind,” he said. Another migrant said he has already spent two winters in BiH. “First, I was in the Bira camp, and after Bira closed, I went to Lipa. Now I am in new Lipa, we have clean space, clothes, heating, food, water, medical support,” he said.

Since January 2015, BiH has become a key route for migrants heading to the European Union. Many of the more than 84,600 arrivals registered since then have moved on to the EU, while others have returned to their countries of origin through IOM's Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. An estimated 3,500 migrants remain in BiH today.

The new Lipa reception facility was constructed from the ground up with the financial support of the European Union as the main contributor, and with additional support by the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Techniches Hilfswerk), the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior, the Austrian Development Agency, the Swiss Government, the Holy See, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Council of Europe Development Bank.

For more information please contact:

In Bosnia and Herzegovina:
Edita Selimbegovic, Senior Public Information Assistant, email eselimbegovic@iom.int, Tel: 387 61 215 839

In Vienna:
Joe Lowry, Senior Regional Communications and Media Officer, email jlowry@iom.int, Tel: +43 660 3776404