Struggling Bosnia sees infection surge in migrants, refugees

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Migrants stand outside the Miral camp, in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Bosnia is seeing a rise in coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees living in its camps, as it struggles to cope with one of the Balkans' highest COVID-19 death and infection rates among the general population.(AP Photo/Davor Midzic)

SARAJEVO – SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Bosnia is seeing a rise in coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees living in its camps, as it struggles to cope with one of the Balkans' highest COVID-19 death and infection rates among the general population.

More than 6,000 migrants are stuck in the dysfunctional, war-scarred country trying to reach neighboring Croatia, a European Union member from which they hope to move on to the continent's prosperous heartland.

Many are accommodated in official asylum centers but others are sleeping rough in abandoned houses or makeshift tent towns along the Croatian border.

While sporadic cases of coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the current outbreak in Bosnia's camps is the biggest so far, and several facilities have been quarantined.

Over the past two weeks, 147 infections have been recorded in just one camp — more than half the total 265 infections recorded among migrants since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The quarantine orders have caused tensions.

Some 50 migrants jumped the fences and fled one of the camps earlier this week, flouting quarantine. Local health authorities criticized the U.N. migration agency that is running the camps over the incident.

“This should not have been allowed to happen,” said regional health official Nermina Cemalovic. “We are concerned about a big number of migrants who are COVID-positive, who are outside the centers and whom we cannot monitor.”