Migrants stranded in Bosnia sleeping rough and dying

A migrant rests in a dorm destroyed during the Bosnian 1992-1995 war, in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Reuters)
Updated 30 May 2019
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Migrants stranded in Bosnia sleeping rough and dying

  • Bosnia, spared the migrant wave in 2015, has seen an influx of migrants trying to reach wealthier European nations via neighboring Croatia, an EU member
  • About 25,000 people from Asia and North Africa entered Bosnia from Serbia and Montenegro last year, and about 6,000 have arrived in the impoverished Balkan country this year

SARAJEVO: Thousands of migrants and refugees, stranded in Bosnia on their way to Western Europe, are sleeping rough in parks and abandoned buildings and some have died, the Red Cross said on Thursday.
Bosnia, spared the migrant wave in 2015, has seen an influx of migrants trying to reach wealthier European nations via neighboring Croatia, an EU member. Some report being beaten back by border guards when they try to cross into Croatia.
About 25,000 people from Asia and North Africa entered Bosnia from Serbia and Montenegro last year, and about 6,000 have arrived in the impoverished Balkan country this year, according to Bosnia’s security agencies.
Only around 3,500 have been accommodated in transit centers, leaving thousands sleeping rough.
“People are sleeping in parks, in car parks, on the footpath, and in dangerous buildings,” Indira Kulenovic, operations manager for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a statement.
“The situation is dire.”
She said three migrants sheltering in a derelict building a few weeks ago burned to death when a candle they were using caused a fire. Another migrant fell from the top floor of a building he was sheltering in, and another set himself on fire and killed himself last week in desperation.
Red Cross volunteers help to prepare meals for 3,000 people a day in five migrant centers across Bosnia, while mobile teams provide people on the move with food, water, clothes, blankets, psycho-social support and first aid.
The migrants also face the hazard of land mines left from Bosnia’s war in the 1990s. Bosnia is one of the most land mine-contaminated countries in Europe.
Most of the migrants are concentrated in the western towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa where authorities say resources are overstretched. They have requested that the three transit centers there be closed and residents moved elsewhere.
Ethnically-divided Bosnia has not formed a government seven months after a general election. State institutions in charge of migration and asylum issues are operating in a care-taking capacity.
“Our teams are doing what they can but they are stretched to the limit and the situation has reached a critical point. This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Rajko Lazic, the secretary- general of Bosnia’s Red Cross Society.


Melting snowcaps spell water trouble for world’s highest capital

Updated 28 min 32 sec ago

Melting snowcaps spell water trouble for world’s highest capital

LA PAZ, Bolivia: Water resources are running dry in the world’s highest-elevation capital due to the combined effect of the Andean glaciers melting, drought and mismanagement.
But instead of surrendering, the locals in Bolivia’s capital La Paz are finding new ways to tackle the changing climate.
The sky-high metropolitan area’s 2.7 million people have already been jolted by climate change: a severe drought that lasted for several months from 2016 into 2017 was Bolivia’s worst in 25 years, leading to water rationing and widespread protests in several cities.
In a sign of possibly worse to come, the Andean snowcaps — which have been relied on to fill the city’s reservoirs — are disappearing at a rate that has alarmed scientists.
In a gray and misty Valle de las Flores district in the east of the city, people are beginning to adapt to disappearing water resources.
There, Juana and her colleague Maria wash clothes for a living at a municipal wash-house, which is fed by spring water.
Public wash-houses — where the water is free — are becoming more popular, as residents change their habits around water use, getting their laundry done and escaping rising water charges.
“It’s true that there are more people coming here than ever before,” since water started to become more scarce, said Juana, as the women scrubbed and wrung-out garments for a fee of 20 bolivianos, or around $3 per dozen items.
In some neighborhoods, locals have become accustomed to storing rainwater in cisterns, ready for when the dry season comes.
The severe drought that lasted from November 2016 to February 2017 was blamed on the combined effects of the El Nino weather cycle, poor water management and climate change.
Leftist President Evo Morales declared a “state of national emergency” and tens of thousands of people in La Paz faced imposed water rationing for the first time, while surrounding mountains that were once covered in snow turned brown and barren.
The measures were expanded to at least seven other cities, and in the countryside, farmers clashed with miners over the use of aquifers.
As part of a contingency plan, Morales doubled down by embarking on a vast investment program in a bid to ensure future water supplies.
According to recent data from the national water company EPSAS, the government has spent $64.7 million (58.7 million euros) to construct four water reservoirs and supply systems from the lagoons of the surrounding Andean highlands.
The new systems will in part ease reliance on the Inkachaka, Ajunkota and Hampaturi dams that have until now supplied drinking water to around one-third of La Paz’s population.
The drought had left the dams almost completely depleted, resembling open-cast mines, and they took months to recover ample water levels.
Patricia Urquieta, an urban planning specialist at the University Mayor de San Andres, says that despite the hardships it brought, the drought did not lead to an increased collective awareness of the need to manage water resources.
Once water restrictions were lifted “this awareness of the need to preserve water fizzled out,” said Urquieta.
“There has beeen no public policy to raise awareness about water usage, even though reports show that La Paz could end up without water because of the decrease of water in the moutains,” she said.
UNESCO introduced an “Atlas on the retreat of Andean glaciers and the reduction of glacial waters” to map the effects of global warming in 2018.
It said “global warming could cause the loss of 95 percent of the current permafrost in Bolivia by 2050, and 99 percent by 2099.”
A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, citing analysis of satellite images, reported that “the Andean glaciers are among those that shrink the fastest.”
Between 2000 and 2018, the glaciers lost an average of 23 billion tons of ice a year, according to Nature
“When the glaciers disappear, they will no longer be able to provide water during the dry season,” said Sebastien Hardy, who is studying the local glaciers for the French Institute for Research and Development.
The Chacaltaya glacier — once the world’s highest ski resort — has already disappeared. Scientists said the glacier started to melt in the mid-1980s. By 2009, it had vanished.
The Inkachaka dam, a few miles outside the La Paz, is currently more than half-full, fed by snowfalls during the austral winter.
But the year-round snowcaps on nearby mountains, visible as recently as 30 years ago, no longer exist.