BRUSSELS

The European Union is providing €3.5 million ($4.3 million) in humanitarian aid to vulnerable refugees and migrants in Bosnia Herzegovina, the European Commission announced on Monday.

The emergency assistance aims at improving the living conditions of asylum-seekers in the country.

The aid will cover warm clothing, blankets, food, and medical support.

According to EU estimates, as many as 1,700 migrants are currently staying without proper shelter amid harsh winter conditions in the canton of Una Sana. Around 900 of them got stranded in a closed reception center in Lipa, now in ruins after being destroyed by fire two weeks ago.

“Hundreds of people, including children, are sleeping outside in freezing temperatures in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Janez Lenarcic, EU commissioner for crisis management, said in a statement.

“This humanitarian disaster could be avoided if the authorities created sufficient winterized shelter capacity in the country,” he added.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also called the humanitarian situation in Una Sana “unacceptable” and urged Bosnian authorities “not to leave people out in the cold, without access to sanitary facilities in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Since 2018, the EU has sent a total of €13.8 million humanitarian aid for Bosnia Herzegovina to host asylum-seekers.

The majority of the migrants in Bosnia Herzegovina would prefer to seek international protection in the European Union but are unable to enter the bloc’s territory.

The European Commission announced in September a reform plan on the bloc’s migration and asylum policy. The proposal focuses on returns, pre-entry checks, and partnerships with third countries to prevent migration flows.

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