'No friendship, no love:' Life on the edge of EU's fortified borders
Aljosa Milenkovic in Bihac, Bosnia
Europe;Bosnia and Herzegovina
"I stay here - no friendship, no love affair."
"I am every time going to them."
"Croatia police catch him."
These are the lyrics of a rap video made by Asif Ali Abas, who has traveled from Punjab in Pakistan in search of a better life in Europe. Despite dozens of attempts to make it into the European Union, Abas's journey of thousands of kilometers has stalled at the final stage, leaving him trapped for the past two years in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Abas is one of up to 90,000 people mainly from the Middle East and Africa who have crossed the country toward the EU since 2018, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Bosnian authorities. Estimates suggest that around 4,000 are currently in Bosnia seeking to cross into neighboring Croatia.
Most migrants entering Bosnia either from Serbia or Montenegro are funneled into the area of two western Bosnia towns: Bihac and Vela Kladusa. The official camp for migrants is named Lipa, after a Serbian village that was located there, until Serbs were forced out of the region during the bloody civil war of the 1990s.
The camp's capacity is 1,500 people, but so far this winter only a couple of hundred migrants are inside. Because of the relatively favorable weather, many more are in the hills to the west hoping to cross into Croatia. Facing them on the other side of that border are highly trained Croatian police units, determined to keep them out.
"This part of the border is sealed," Alenko Vrduka, police commissioner from the Sisak border area told CGTN. "Because of that, the migration route is shifting. We feel less pressure in this area and look at the situation in other countries. We can see that the pressure increases there. It means the route is moving again."
He cites figures suggesting there have been between 20 and 30 percent fewer illegal crossing attempts in 2021 than last year.
Those staying in the Lipa camp, like Abas and fellow Pakistani Zahur Shah, can testify to the challenges of making it past drones, thermal-imaging cameras and personnel backed by millions of dollars of EU funds. Shah says he has been turned back at least 38 times, but he will not stop trying.