Twenty-nine injured as fire torches migrant center in Bosnia

Bosnia migrant center fire
A burned migrant camp is seen in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Twenty-nine migrants were injured in a fire that broke out early on Saturday at a center in the northwestern Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, police said.

Regional police spokesman Ale Siljdedic said the injured were taken to hospitals in Velika Kladusa and neighboring Bihac following the fire at the Miral center, which is used as temporary accommodation for about 500 migrants.

The fire was put down during the course of the day but more than a hundred migrants were forced to stay outdoors braving rain and cold weather because the building’s upper floor was destroyed, a Reuters photographer said.

An investigation into the cause of the fire was underway, police said. Police spokesman Siljdedic told Reuters the fire was most likely caused by a heater as temperatures had fallen overnight.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which manages the camp, said in a statement that eight people remained in hospital, two of them with serious but not life threatening injuries.

Videos posted on social media showed several people jumping in panic out of the center’s windows.

Local doctors said that many of the injured suffered from limb fractures and only few of them from burns. IOM said its was ready to engage additional staff to put the building back into full use.

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.

Most of the migrants are concentrated in Bihac and Velika Kladusa, where authorities say resources are overstretched. They have requested that the three transit centers there, including Miral, 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 caretaking capacity.

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