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News 03 Jun 15

EU Returns 7,500 Migrants to Kosovo This Year

The Interior Ministry reports that 7,500 migrants have been returned from EU countries so far, with efforts continuing to repatriate more migrants currently in these countries.

Una Hajdari

Kosovo's Interior Ministry has announced that around 7,500 migrants, most of whom were

Entire families that left during the illegal migration spike were returned.| Photo by Una Hajdari

part of a wave of illegal migration into the EU from Kosovo in early 2015, have been returned from Germany, Austria, Sweden, Belgium and France.

"We have had 7,500 immigrants returned to Kosovo, and most of them have been in these countries since January. We can see a clear spike in the numbers. In these four months, more Kosovars were returned than in all of 2014 when we had a total of 4,600," said Valon Krasniqi, from the the Department for Repatriation at the Interior Ministry.

He said that most of the Kosovars returned willingly, through agreements Kosovo set up with EU countries for their repatriation.

"Around 60 per cent of those who have returned in these four months came willingly. That’s a positive sign,” Krasniqi added.

Kosovar citizens are being returned almost on a daily basis from EU countries where their asylum requests have been denied.

Two or three charter planes are organized weekly, with the next one, carrying 136 immigrants, due to come from Sweden on Thursday.

Towards the end of 2014, with the sharpest spike in early 2015, thousands of Kosovo Albanians migrated to EU countries via Hungary in the hope of gaining asylum.

One major factor is the high unemployment rate. Only around 40 per cent of adults actively participate in the workforce and youth unemployment runs at a rate of 60 per cent. Low job security and low pay among those with jobs are other factors behind the mass exodus.

Resul Sylejmani, from the northern town of Mitrovica, who was returned on Tuesday, said he would not consider going again.

“I was in Karslruhe [in Germany] for four months. The whole thing cost me around 4,000 euros, money that I will never get back," he said.

"If everything was going well in this country, I’d never go in the first place. But I’m definitely not trying to go again,” said Sylejmani, who went there with four members of his family.

Most of the Kosovo Albanians are placed in camps in the European countries they travel to, either after being caught by the authorities while traveling or when attempting to apply for asylum.

Others are placed temporarily in apartments, most which are shared, or in hotels covered by the local authorities.

During the migration spike, most of the immigrants illegally crossed the Hungarian border with Serbia. Kosovo nationals are not able to travel visa-free within the EU’s Schengen Zone, nor do they have the right to seek employment within the EU.

Xhezide Halitaj, a mother of four from Malisevo, said she went abroad, hoping her children would get a better future.

“The conditions my children live in here are unbearable. They have no future in Kosovo. I wouldn’t mind being able to live and work in a foreign country,” Halitaj said.

She and her family were taken out of their camp at 3am by the police and taken to the airport, which is how they got back to Kosovo.

The Halitajs face a grim perspective. They sold everything they had in Kosovo to leave and will now have to rent an apartment. This will be hard to pay for since Xhezide and her husband are not currently in work.

The Ministry says it believes around 38,000 Kosovars illegally migrated into the EU countries during the course of the migration wave, using Eurostat statistics on asylum seekers. Many believe the true number is higher, as much as 50 or 60,000.

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