By Bojana Barlovac
Serbia is drawing up a combination of short and long-term measures to deal with the constantly growing number of people from the country seeking asylum in the EU, officials told Balkan Insight.
The European Union lifted visa requirements on citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009.
Since then, Serbia has received several complaints concerning the number of ethnic Albanians and Roma people from the south of the country seeking asylum in Sweden, Belgium and Germany.
According to a UNHCR report, Serbia was the top country of origin for asylum seekers in 2010, sending more applicants to the industrialized world than either Afghanistan and Iraq.
Short-term measures to stem the embarrassing exodus include cracking down on travel agencies that are believed to be encouraging people to go to Europe to claim asylum.
Long-term measures will focus on improving basic living conditions in those areas from which the majority of asylum-seekers come.
Last week, Belgium sent a letter to the European Commission suggesting a suspension of the visa-free regime with Serbia.
“If Serbia fails to undertake necessary measures, Belgium is ready to request suspension [of the visa-free regime with Serbia],” the Belgian letter reads.
Abuses of the visa-free regime will be high on the agenda of the EU ministers meeting in June.
If Belgium requests suspension of the visa-free regime, it will need to obtain consent from all the other member states before the measure went into effect.