SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – Bosnia is seeing an increase in coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees living in its camps as it struggles to overcome the highest COVID-19 mortality rate among the general population in the Balkans.
More than 6,000 migrants are stranded in a dysfunctional, war-torn country trying to reach neighboring Croatia, a member of the European Union, from where they hope to move to the continent’s prosperous countries.
Many are housed in official shelters, but others sleep in abandoned homes or in makeshift tent cities along the Croatian border.
Although sporadic cases of coronavirus infections have been reported among migrants and refugees since the start of the epidemic, the outbreak is currently the largest in Bosnian camps, with a number of institutions quarantined.
During the last two weeks, 147 infections were registered in only one camp. More than half of the 265 infections reported among migrants since the outbreak.
Quarantine orders have caused tension.
About 50 migrants jumped the fences and escaped from one of the camps earlier this week by being quarantined. Local health officials have criticized the UN Migration Agency, which runs the camps over the incident.
“It should not have been allowed to happen,” said Nermina Emal Emalovich, the region’s health chief. “We are concerned about a large number of migrants who are COLLECTIVE positive, who are outside the centers and whom we cannot control.”
Bosnia reported more than 7,000 COVID-19 deaths among its 3.3 million population, the worst in Europe. This is partly because the health care system has not yet recovered from the 1992-95 war, which was part of the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
The Danish Refugee Council, a humanitarian group that has dealt with the migrant and refugee epidemic in Bosnia, said the situation was “under control”, new cases were isolated, and no one needed to be hospitalized.
“Inevitably, as a result of the general situation in the country, we have seen an increase in the number of cases in reception rooms,” said Nikola Bey, director of DRC Bosnia. “But they reacted quickly, the situation is under control.”
The Balkan country started vaccinations relatively late, with donations from abroad and deliveries through the COVAX international mechanism.
Bane says almost all cases of COVID-19 in migrant camps are mild or asymptomatic.
“They usually do not require hospitalization or medical care,” he said. “They are isolated in the reception centers to prevent further spread. They received medical treatment in the reception centers.”
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