Bosnian police injured in clashes at migrant camp

An overturned Bosnian police car in the aftermath of shots at illegal migrants camp "Blazuj", near Sarajevo, on Jan 21, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SARAJEVO (AFP) - Two police officers and a UN migration agency official were injured on Wednesday night (Jan 20) in clashes at a camp for thousands of migrants near the Bosnian capital, police said.

Several police vehicles were flipped on their backs during the scuffles at the overstretched "Blazuj" centre outside Sarajevo, where more than 3,000 European Union-bound migrants are currently housed.

Police said they stepped in to break up a fight between two groups of migrants.

"During the intervention, migrants attacked police officers and damaged several police and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) cars, as well as IOM offices," police spokesman Mirza Hadziabdic told AFP.

He confirmed that two police officers and an employee with IOM, the UN migration agency, were injured.

The IOM issued a statement explaining that "a skirmish between two migrants quickly escalated into a bigger fight".

Since 2018, Bosnia has struggled to manage a large influx of migrants, mainly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, who have been crossing the Balkan state's territory in hopes of reaching Western Europe.

The poor country is currently at loggerheads with the EU, which is pressuring Bosnia to provide adequate housing for migrants whom the bloc do not want to let inside their own borders.

According to IOM figures, almost 6,000 migrants are currently housed in five centres run by the agency in Bosnia.

But more than 2,000 others are camped in the woods and abandoned buildings in the heart of winter around north-west Bihac, which lies near the border of Croatia.

And an additional 900 migrants are staying in a tent camp built by the army near the village of Lipa after heavy international pressure to provide housing for migrants during winter.

Despite pressure from the EU and the federal government, local authorities in Bihac have refused to reopen a pre-existing facility for migrants due to opposition from the local community.

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