Budapest/Geneva, 18 June 2018 – Thousands of people making their way through the Balkans are in desperate need of basic humanitarian services and support, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The number of people entering Europe through Greece and then making their way towards Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is increasing. More than 5,600 people have reached Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of January, compared with just 754 across the whole of 2017.
In Montenegro, authorities have reported 557 asylum requests May 2018 – the highest monthly figure in five years. The Red Cross of Montenegro has assisted more than 1,000 people since the beginning of the year with food, clothes and medical supplies at reception centres and border crossings.
Simon Missiri, IFRC Regional Director for Europe said: “We are concerned that people are not receiving the assistance they need. People are keen to keep moving and are reluctant to access state services for fear of being detained.
“Red Cross Societies in the Balkans are doing what they can to reach and help people migrating through their territories, but the scale and complexity of this operation is such that more assistance is needed.”
In north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, about 1,000 people are gathered close to the border with Croatia, trapped by the terrain and closed border crossings. Many are sleeping in the open and do not have access to food, water, hygiene and sanitation.
One hundred Red Cross volunteers are serving hundreds of hot meals a day at an abandoned university campus in the town of Bihac. Volunteers are also distributing sleeping bags, clothes and hygiene kits, and providing medical assistance.
“These people are extremely vulnerable,” said IFRC’s Missiri. “Regardless of their migration status, they, like everyone, should be able to access basic services, and should be protected from harm.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina is the most mine contaminated country in Europe, with land mines covering 2.2 per cent of its territory. Some mine fields are still active in the areas where people are trying to cross the border. To warn people of the danger, Red Cross volunteers are distributing flyers in towns and camps close to the border.