GENEVA: Thousands of migrants trapped near the Bosnian border with Croatia are ill-equipped to survive freezing temperatures and some might not make it through winter, the Red Cross said Monday.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC) warned that more than five thousand migrants trapped in Bosnia and Herzegovina desperately needed help with winter setting in.
“We are concerned that, without concerted action, migrants will suffer a completely preventable humanitarian disaster,” said the IFRC’s regional director for Europe, Simon Missiri, in a statement.
“The clock is ticking,” he stressed.
The poor Balkan state has become a well-trodden stop on the new route to the European Union for migrants escaping war and poverty in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
More than 23,000 people have entered the country this year hoping to move into the EU. An estimated 5,300 migrants are still in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the IFRC statement said.
Most of them are gathered near the Croatian border, trapped by the terrain and closed border crossings.
Some are living in tents, abandoned buildings and makeshift camps with little protection against winter temperatures in the region, which can drop as low as -15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit), the organisation said.
“Despite the best efforts of aid agencies to provide food and shelter for migrants, living conditions remain poor and the risk of hypothermia is increasing as cold weather sets in,” Missiri said.
“Without humanitarian assistance, it is difficult to see how many people will make it through to spring.”
The national Red Cross society distributes food to up to 3,000 people each day in the area.
They also hand out warm clothes, sleeping bags and blankets to the migrants, most of whom arrived without any winter gear, the IFRC said, appealing for more funds to increase the distribution.
Red Cross mobile teams will begin patrolling the area to provide food, blankets, hot drinks and first aid to migrants in need. They will also distribute information about active landmine fields in the area, the IFRC said.
Bosnia and Herzegovina remains the most landmine-contaminated country in Europe.