About 3,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa are stranded in squats and forest camps amid frigid temperatures in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, suffering from respiratory problems and infections, hoping to cross the border with European Union member Croatia soon.
The vast majority interviewed by Al Jazeera said they were waiting for the severe Balkan winter to end before attempting the border crossing again, a journey which they have dubbed “The Game”. For some, it will be their 25th attempt at entering the EU bloc.
As they try to reach Croatia, many refugees and migrants have reported violent pushbacks by Croatian border forces during these attempts.
Some who made it as far into the EU as Italy have faced chain pushbacks across several Balkan countries, eventually landing back in Bosnia.
Many told Al Jazeera they had been living in limbo for about two years.
Since 2016, following the closure of the migration route through Serbia and Hungary, Bosnia has become a hub for those seeking to reach wealthier European countries.
But tensions are growing between locals and refugees.
Suhret Fazlic, mayor of the northern town of Bihać, said his region was alone in taking on a heavy burden, which should instead be shared with other parts of the country.
Nearly 70,000 refugees and migrants have passed through Bosnia since 2018. There are currently some 6,000 people in camps, and more without accommodation.