By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The head of Germany’s Association of Towns and Municipalities said the number of Serbian and Macedonian asylum seekers rose by 140 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011, putting services under strain.
Gerd Landsberg said they “already have difficulties in places in providing the necessary accommodations”.
In October alone, 2,700 people from Serbia and 1,300 from Macedonia applied for asylum in Germany, Landsberg said, adding that “the trend [of new arrivals] is still rising”.
He urged the re-installment of a visa regime for these countries and also called for faster German procedures to return asylum seekers lasting no more than three weeks.
“Leaflets [in the Balkans] are promoting travel to Germany to spend the winter here,” he complained.
In December 2009, the European Union lifted visa requirements on Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, allowing their citizens to travel freely into the EU’s so-called Schengen zone.
Since then, Serbia and Macedonia have received complaints about mass arrivals of asylum-seekers, mainly ethnic Albanians and Roma, filing applications in Germany, Sweden, Belgium and other European countries.
Earlier this month, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, called on Balkan states to cut the number of asylum seekers, noting that the numbers this year were on the rise.
Most leave the Balkans for economic reasons. Almost all are denied refugee status since the EU does not list poverty as a legitimate reason for claiming asylum.
About the author: Balkan Insight
The Balkan Insight (forner the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes.
BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention.
Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.