As refugees continue to walk thousands of miles in the pursuit of their dreams to find a safe haven in western Europe, they now confront new dangers of stepping onto landmines. Experts fear that the recent closure of borders by the Hungarian and Croatian governments on the Serbian border may lead refugees and asylum seekers to mine-infested routes.Asylum seekers from the Middle East, including many Syrian refugees, typically begin their Europe-bound journey on foot from Greece and then through Macedonia and Serbia they make an attempt to enter EU member states via Hungary.
However, since Hungary recently changed its refugee policy and closed down its borders with Serbia by building fences, asylum seekers have now been forced to reroute through Croatia. But the refugee influx also prompted Croatia to build fences on its borders, leaving asylum seekers no choice but to reroute once more. Now, the possible new route available to the refugees is through Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
However, experts warn that Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia still have large numbers of mines from past wars that are yet to be defused.
According to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center, the most dangerous locations in Bosnia are along the Sava River, which is the border between Bosnia and the cities of Croatia and Brcko, Orasje, Samac and Trebinje-Ravno on the Montenegrin border.
There have been eight mine incidents at Sava River so far; the victims have included fishermen, mine clearers, civilians and children, the center’s officials said.
The Bosnian center told Anadolu Agency that it was distributing maps of the minefields online so that refugees don’t come into harms way. The maps can be accessed through the center’s official website.
Bosnia has 1,417 minefields across 1,165 square kilometers of territory.
Croatia too has a large number of minefields. There are an estimated 50,000 mines within 496 square kilometers of minefields in Croatia and the highest risk areas are on its two border points with Serbia and 40 square kilometers of area along the Bosnian border, according to the Croatian Mine Action Center.