BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Braving cold weather and snow, dozens of migrants are heading daily from Bosnia up a steep mountain pass toward neighboring Croatia, trying to slip by unnoticed by border guards or police.
Carrying sleeping bags and personal belongings, the migrants tread slowly through the snow in groups, with some waving: “See you in Europe!”
Croatia’s border is 20 kilometers (15 miles) from the Bosnian town of Bihac, where hundreds of migrants are staying in a makeshift camp waiting for a chance to cross. Croatia is one of the 28 nations in the European Union, while Bosnia is not.
The narrow road winds up the Pljesivica mountain through the forest and migrants must walk for hours before they reach the Croatian border. With the weather worsening in the past several days, migrants now face snow and freezing temperatures on their trek, setting off in the afternoon to reach the border in the dark.
Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa or Asia have been flocking to northwestern Bosnia for the crossing, and many must try several times before they manage to slip past the border police.
Impoverished and still recovering from its own 1992-95 war, Bosnia has had difficulties properly accommodating the migrants. At the migrant camp in Bihac, wet snow is falling, mud is everywhere and tents offer little comfort from Bosnia’s harsh winter.
Some migrants wear only worn-out shoes and no socks as they line up to receive a hot meal from aid groups helping out in the Borici camp, a former student dormitory damaged during the war.
“It’s very difficult to survive here,” said Feroz Han Amanazay from Afghanistan, noting that the water is cold, there is no heating and the tents are too big to warm up.
Nur Rahman, also from Afghanistan, agrees the situation is “very difficult” and says the migrants need more clothes and medicine. But he says they won’t give up their quest to reach the EU.
“We are planning to cross the mountain, even if it’s minus 50 every day,” he said.