BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Hundreds of migrants streaming toward Western Europe after fleeing violence and poverty in their countries have found temporary shelter in war-scarred Bosnia, a Balkan country still recovering from its own bloodshed from more than two decades ago.
In Bihac, the northwestern corner of Bosnia, an abandoned students’ home that was destroyed during the 1992-95 ethnic conflict, is now hosting around 250 men, women and children from the Middle East, Africa or Asia.
The windowless concrete building, strewn with graffiti and uncultivated greenery, is where the migrants now sleep, eat, play and get doctor’s help.
A big concrete hall once filled with the students’ laughter, is now a dining hall where migrants gather at lunchtime for a meal of cooked beans served with some bread and a bottle of water.
Some migrants eat their food sitting at the gaping windows, looking at the distance and dreaming of a new life somewhere in the wealthy West. Many already have family members in countries like Germany or France.
But getting there isn’t easy. Migrants have traveled from Turkey to Greece over the Aegean Sea, and they have walked for miles or traveled with people smugglers. From Bosnia, they hope to reach European Union member Croatia.
This too has been tough: Croatian police often turn migrants back or beat them. They then return to the Bihac students’ home and wait for another chance to cross.
Keeping bundles with their possesions close by, migrants spend days or weeks waiting, sleeping on makeshift beds on concrete floors. Children play as their parents seek ways to keep them safe and warm.
Bosnians, who know what it’s like to live through war, offer help and support. When some of the migrants leave, new ones soon come in to take their place.
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