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EU warns Bosnia to help migrants as entire families on move

Entire migrant families are on the move in cold winter weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union urged the Balkan country to act to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

The EU's Bosnia mission warned in a statement that current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people who have been sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions in the country.

“We urge the authorities to act with the utmost urgency to save lives,” Wednesday's statement said.

Four children from Afghanistan eat dinner in an abandoned house where they slept the night near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

Bosnia has faced criticism for years for its handling of the influx of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in their countries. The politically unstable and impoverished Balkan nation is still recovering from a devastating conflict in the 1990s, and has failed to find a coherent response to the crisis.

Migrants come to Bosnia with the aim of reaching neighboring EU nation Croatia before moving on toward Western Europe from there. To cross to Croatia from Bosnia, migrants often use hidden mountain routes in the northwest of the country.

On Thursday morning, two Afghan families got to the Croatian border after walking for miles through fields and forests, and spending the night in a cold abandoned house with no doors or windows.

Mohammed and Alia from Afghanistan walk with a group of children near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

The families from Baghlan and Kabul fled the violence in their native Afghanistan. They have traveled for more than a year along with six small children who now range in age from 3 to 11.

Their minds set on reaching Germany and starting a new life there, the families on Wednesday set off from the northwestern Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa toward Croatia, pausing overnight in the pitch black and cold weather, their faces lit up by a small fire as they had their supper before moving into a tent to sleep.

In the morning, the men carried the small children as they climbed up steep and slippery forest routes before reaching their destination, tired but smiling and hopeful.

Malika from Afghanistan gets ready for the trip to the border with her family in an abandoned house where they slept the night near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

The Afghan families were lucky that the weather was dry although it was foggy and cold. With no Croatian police in sight, they moved into the country and on toward Italy.

Only a few weeks ago, other migrants in makeshift tent settlements in Bosnia woke up to the season's first snow, heralding the upcoming winter. Many also allegedly face pushbacks and violence at the hands of Croatia's police.

The EU in its statement urged Bosnia's authorities to relocate migrants to EU-funded facilities for the winter and open new ones.

A family from Afghanistan keep warm by a fire in an abandoned house where they slept the night near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

“The humanitarian crisis is becoming a reality because of the lack of action of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the statement said. “Solutions exist and the EU is ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in the necessary actions.”

A group of migrants coming from Afghanistan walk through a Croatian forest after crossing the Bosnia-Croatia border in Croatia near the Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

Malika, 2nd left, passes their 5 years old daughter to her husband Mohammed as the Afghan family climb over a wire fence close to the Bosnian-Croatian border near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia Wednesday Dec. 9. 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

Malika from Afghanistan is helped by her husband Ahmed to crawl under a fence a few kilometers from the Bosnia-Croatia border near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

An Afghan family, from left to right: Malika, Alia, Ahmed's son and Ahmed sit by a fire to keep warm as they prepare to spend the night before crossing the Bosnia-Croatia border, only 3 kilometers away near the Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

An Afghan family walk across grassland near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia,Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

Two Afghan families walk in a clearing after leaving a Croatian forrest near the Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

An Afghan family cross under a wire fence close to the Bosnian-Croatian border, near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)

Members of two Afghan families rest while an 17-year old Jan Ali, top, checks the map on his mobile phone near Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020. Entire migrant families are on the move in cold weather in Bosnia while trying to reach the West as the European Union warns the Balkan country it must act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. A statement by the EU Bosnia mission says current weather conditions are putting at risk the lives of more than 3,000 people sleeping rough or staying in inadequate conditions. (AP PhotoMarc Sanye)