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Over 500 migrants incl Bangladeshis in Eastern Europe jungles

News Desk || shiningbd

Published: 14:24, 2 October 2020   Update: 14:25, 2 October 2020
Over 500 migrants incl Bangladeshis in Eastern Europe jungles

Photo: Collected

The death of Bangladeshis among asylum seekers while crossing the Mediterranean to Europe is not new news. News of this horrific journey and death in the grip of human traffickers has been coming to the media almost regularly for five years. Central European countries Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia are now being discussed as new routes for human trafficking.

Reuters and AP reported that more than 600 migrants, including Bangladeshis, were trapped in the freezing cold in the jungles of the two countries. However, the number of Bangladeshis among them was not mentioned. Human trafficking gangs smuggle these individuals through Croatia to Bosnia or Slovenia. From there, the traffickers set out on a dangerous journey to cross the Adriatic Sea and send them to prosperous countries in Europe, including Italy.

Bangladeshis seeking asylum have taken refuge in the forest of Velika Kladuša in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  This scene is from last Wednesday. They have been evicted from a United Nations-run migrant camp in Bosnia's northwestern Krajina region on Wednesday.

Multiple European diplomatic sources informed, that many Bangladeshis, as well as citizens of other countries, have been traveling to Bosnia and Slovenia to cross into Italy over the years. Bosnia-Croatia or Slovenia-Croatia has become one of the routes for human trafficking in Europe.

Diplomatic sources in Belgium and the Netherlands informed on Thursday afternoon that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had been running at least seven camps for migrants in Bosnia since last April. Bosnian authorities have lifted the camps. As a result, people in those camps for two weeks have taken refuge in Bosnian jungles and abandoned buildings on the Croatian border. Many have taken up position on the side of the road.

Reuters further reported on Wednesday that there were at least 500 migrants, including Bangladeshis, in a forest and abandoned factory near the Croatian border town of Velika Kladusa. According to Reuters, people staying there are waiting to go to Croatia for the purpose of crossing into Italy. Apart from Bangladesh, there are citizens of Pakistan, Morocco and Algeria.

As seen in various pictures published by Reuters, people are trying to get warm by lighting fires in the bone-chilling winter. Wandering here and there in the forest, praying, cooking in an abandoned factory.

Mohammad Abul, a Bangladeshi national living there, told Reuters they had no house, no water, no toilet, and no medical treatment. He said 500 of them had been evacuated from camps in the town of Bihak and Velika Claudusa. For this reason they had no way but to take refuge in the forest.

Bosnian Border Guard official Azur Sljivic told Reuters that migrants from Serbia crossed the Drina River in rubber boats to reach Bosnia. But the river is so fast and turbulent that sometimes the situation becomes dangerous. As a result, many died. But seeing the crowds on the Croatian border, it is clear that nothing can stop these desperate immigrants.

“Most migrants are smuggled to Bosnia in rubber boats over the Drina River, the natural border with Serbia,” said Azur Sljivic.

“Many of them drown because the Drina River is unpredictable, full of whirlpools,” Sljivic told Reuters while patrolling along the border in the eastern town of Zvornik

Hundreds of migrants from several countries, including Bangladesh, were detained in Slovenia while traveling to Europe illegally on Tuesday before Bosnia.

According to the Slovenian news agency Total Slovenia News, (TSN), a total of 144 people were detained on Sunday in different parts of the country's southwestern Ilirska Bistrica region. Most of the detained migrants are citizens of Bangladesh and Pakistan. TSN reported last Tuesday that police detained 22 immigrants from a van in the Oramz area. 11 of them were citizens of Bangladesh. Police suspect the detainees arrived in Slovenia recently from Croatia.

According to an AFP report, 113 illegal immigrants were detained on Sunday in different parts of the Ilirska Bistrica on Croatia's southern border. City Mayor Emil Roach told the media that the number of illegal immigrant detainees has been rising in recent weeks. In the first eight months of this year, 10,223 immigrants were detained for crossing the border into Slovenia illegally.

Bangladesh has no embassy in Bosnia. The Bangladesh Embassy in the Netherlands maintains diplomatic relations with the country. Asked about the whereabouts of Bangladeshi migrants in the Bosnian jungle, Bangladesh's ambassador to the Netherlands M Riaz Hamidullah informed, “The Bosnian Foreign Ministry has assured us of details. Harudin Samun, Bangladesh's honorary consul in Bosnia, has also been asked to look into the matter.”

As the EU attempts to overhaul its defunct migration policies, thousands of people fleeing Asia, the Middle East and Africa are stranded on the fringe of the wealthy bloc, trying and often failing to enter and continue their journey.

Migrants and refugees mostly bypassed impoverished Bosnia during their mass movements across the Balkans in 2015-2016, but in recent years the country has become a key transit route after EU countries closed their borders to new arrivals.

“[There are] many problems here,” said Mahmood Abal from Bangladesh. “No rooms, no water, no medical facilities, no sanitation.”

He is one of about 500 men who were turned away from the Bosnian towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa. Authorities are refusing to host large groups of migrants any longer and are preparing to close down some reception centers.

Sympathetic at first to the plight of the migrants, similar to their own during the war in the 1990s when they were forced to flee, Bosnians in the Krajina border region have become anxious, demanding that other regions share the burden.

But in ethnically-divided Bosnia, the Serb and Croat-dominated regions refuse to accept migrants, and so they concentrate on the Bosniak-dominated Sarajevo and Krajina.

Source: Reuters, Deutsche Welle 

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