A landmine from the Balkan wars of the 1990s exploded, killing one migrant and injuring several more in an area of central Croatia riddled with unexploded ordnance.
The explosion occurred on Thursday in a forest near Saborsko, near the Bosnian border, where a group of asylum seekers was trying to cross the country, Croatian authorities said in a statement.
One man was killed when he stepped on the anti-personnel device and others were injured in the blast, Agence France-Presse reported. Four people were taken to hospital, one with life-threatening injuries.
Zagreb police said they had been able to rescue 10 other people from the minefield.
The nationality of the deceased person is not yet clear. According to a report from a hospital near the city of Ogulin, two of the injured were from Pakistan.
Charities and humanitarian workers said the incident underscored the extraordinary risks migrants and refugees face when arriving and crossing Europe.
Thousands of people a day, mainly from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, try to cross the Balkans. It is a long and arduous route through mountains and forests with practically no facilities en route.
The final leg of the journey, from Bosnia to Croatia, is the most dangerous and exhausting, given the systematic violence perpetrated by Croatian police who patrol the longest external border of the EU along which thousands of unexploded mines remain. the war of the nineties.
Charities have denounced police abuses, in which asylum seekers are beaten, robbed and returned to Bosnia, for years.
“This tragic incident once again highlights how EU policies, focused on limiting irregular arrivals, are putting people at risk and causing unnecessary suffering to people on the move,” said Nicola Bay, Country Director of the Danish Refugee Council for Bosnia.
“Faced with systematic and often violent deterrence practices, people in need of international protection, or simply seeking a better life in the EU, are forced to turn to increasingly dangerous routes.
“The EU pact on migration and asylum should chart a different course, ensuring safe and legal avenues available to those seeking international protection and strengthening compliance with human rights at the external and internal borders of the EU.”
Croatia has around 17,000 landmines and other unexploded ordnance, according to the interior ministry. Antipersonnel mines have killed more than 200 people in Croatia since the end of the war. The unexploded ordnance problem also extends to Bosnia, one of the most polluted countries in the world.
According to ITF Enhancing Human Security, a non-profit humanitarian organization, almost 2% of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an area of 965 square kilometers, is contaminated. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) estimates that there are around 79,000 mines and other unexploded devices.
Many informal immigrant camps are near areas plagued by unexploded landmines.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism