People call it “the game”. The rules of this game are simple but tough: you start a few kilometers away from the Croatian border, which you have to cross. Through the forest, across rivers and past minefields. If you get caught, you face violence. And you lose everything.
They take your cell phone, your clothes, even your shoes. They take you back across the border and you start all over again. Why do you do it? You want a better life for yourself and your family. That’s why you want to make it to the EU.
This is the reality of thousands of people who are stuck in the Bosnian border canton of Una Sana. They can go neither back nor forth. Since Hungary has increased border controls, making it more difficult to cross, new routes are being used to get to Croatia and to Western Europe. Some of them lead through the canton of Una Sana.
At the EU border between Croatia and Bosnia, Illegal push-backs are commonplace. The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVNM) documented more than 1,000 illegal push-backs in Europe in April 2021 alone, nearly two-thirds of them from Croatia. Under EU asylum law, these individuals would have the right to apply for asylum once they are on EU soil.
Due to this brutal practice of border authorities, Una Sana is one of the places of failure of the EU migration policy at the moment. In December 2020, Camp Lipa, the largest temporary reception center in Una Sana, burned down. Since then, it has been rebuilt and expanded, but still does not offer enough space for everyone.
Furthermore, many do not want to live in the camp, because they are surveilled there and no security is guaranteed for them.
Thus, hundreds of people are being illegalized and forced to sleep in makeshift tents in the forest or in ruined houses, without access to clean water, medical care or food. In recent months, there have been repeated repressive evictions of these “illegal” squats, with all belongings burned. This is not the first time this has happened:
For the summer and the tourist season, authorities try to make the people disappear from the cityscape.
Help organizations and solidarity structures in Bihać are trying to support the people in Una Sana Canton with food, clean water, medical aid and other supplies. However, independent groups are actively criminalized by the authorities and activities are made difficult. The EU pours billions of euros annually into the official, large organizations that are supposed to improve and regulate the situation in Bosnia in cooperation with the authorities.
However, the activities of these organizations are directed towards control and the suppression of people’s freedom of movement.
Sustainable solutions are not offered and will not be possible as long as the current capitalist system is built on structural racism and we, who directly benefit from the current conditions, do not resist it. The situation of the people in Bosnia is not simply a tragedy, it is an active choice and a direct consequence of Fortress Europe.