Sufyan Ali is one of more than 1,000 refugees in the Lipa settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this letter he denounces the inhumane living conditions and the blockade of the roads imposed to prevent them from entering Europe.
We are refugees. We don’t have a job. We are not allowed to have it. There is no dignity here. We need perspectives. Without any realistic possibility of entering the European Union, we are trapped at the external borders. We ask you to do something for the refugees in Bosnia. This is our request to the European Union! Most of those who manage to cross the Croatian border end up being “hot-returned” to Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have been constantly beaten by the Croatian police, particularly migrant men, but also women and minors.
With the current border protection system we cannot reach Europe in any legal way, and we are forced to try it illegally, so the goal of most migrants is to travel undetected through Croatia and then from Slovenia to get to Italy. Italy is the first place on the route where the risk of us being hot returned to Bosnia is lowest.
For my part, I live in the Lipa camp, in Bosnia, where there are about 1,500 people among immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The hardest time here is when we cook. We prepare our own food because the one they give us after queuing is not good. In the morning they give us a small package of fish, a package of chicken, and a cup of black tea and bread. And during the day, they distribute lentils. Sometimes they change the menu, but most of the time it is lentils. However, in this field we have nowhere to cook. We all do it in a fire in a nearby forest, without a roof, and we do it all in the open. There is no proper installation and we have to do it every day in extreme cold. The wood is not dry and it is very difficult to light a fire because we are in the rainy and snowy season. We have to deal with all of this every day. We want to do something better for ourselves, we want to work!
Another thing is that, when an organization distributes food in Lipa, the first thing some of them do is take pictures of us. They show on social media that they are helping a lot, but the truth is that some give us good food once and disappear. And I ask you: to spend a night and a day in the Lipa field and see what this really is like.
I’ll also explain about the bathrooms: there are only a dozen chemical toilets for over a thousand people. There is no running water to drink and we often run out of it. The state of the toilets here is not good. They are only cleaned every two or three days, there are only five showers in total for all these people. There is no hot water in the showers for everyone, and in the news it is said that all the facilities here do have them, but it is all a lie!
Another thing is that a meeting was held in the Lipa camp in which we were told that the people from the camp, we, would clean up the area. We were warned that those who did not participate would have their store heaters removed. They would rather threaten and control us than consider us human beings. We are young and fit men, we can work! Being stuck with nothing to do makes us sick.
And about covid-19: Farm workers perjure that the virus does not spread within the field, but there is no way to verify or control this. Also other diseases such as scabies that are spreading among the population. The stores we live in are tiny: in one of the small ones there can be more than 30 people, which means that we are very crowded. At this time, with an epidemic like the current one in the world, it is very difficult to live in these tents and if human beings also contract this disease here, many lives will be lost. We ask that there be a control system that allows us to do a good test for covid-19 and perform an isolation system to prevent the problem.