After the fire, the snow: the life of a refugee in Bosnia

Lipa Camp, on the mountain high above the city of Bihać in northern Bosnia, was barely fit for human habitation. Tent structures and flimsy floors provided little protection for the negative temperatures of the icy nights. Rain would blow through the numerous holes whilst hot water and appropriate sanitation were non-existent.

But it was better than nothing.

Nothing means camping in the woods, surrounded by snow. It means trying to make a fire to keep warm from the broken remains of the near-useless camp.

On 23rd December 2020, a huge fire engulfed the entire camp, which used to house 1,200 people. Conspiracy theories abound. Was is started by angry local people who didn’t want refugees on their doorstep? Or by the organisation that ran the camp? Or was it started by a refugee?

The camp was due to close, and IOM — the international organisation who run the camps in Bosnia — had requested that recently closed Bira Camp be re-opened. However, local politicians objected to Bira Camp on the grounds that it is much closer to the city, despite it already having the facilities necessary to care for the vulnerable people who were suffering in Lipa.

But now, the police are stopping people from returning to the city at all. Aid organisations, including No Name Kitchen, are rushing to provide blankets and other equipment. But the number of people needing help is overwhelming.

One man has taken on the responsibility of reporting what he sees. He sends videos and interviews, photos and reports.

This man, and his amazing tattoos, is the subject of this article. He was a victim of the Bosnian police, and he sent this message. What response is possible to a message like this?

There is no doubt that the European Union knows what is perpetrated on their doorstep.

Reports of the conditions for people, the violence used against them, the illegal actions they face at every turn, are well documented by the Border Violence Monitoring Network.

Whilst kind, intelligent and persecuted people are being kept against their will in this freezing place, it is the responsibility of those that know, to spread the news. We must hold our governments accountable and call out this breach of human rights being committed so close to our borders.

To support the refugees in this dire situation, share this article. To financially contribute, donate to No Name Kitchen via this link.

I'm a writer, blogger and musician. I write about the situation for refugees in Europe and about travel and adventure. Find out more www.hannahparry.co.uk

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