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A group of 51 Albanians who applied for asylum in Belgium were returned to Tirana Airport on Wednesday.
|Albanian asylum seekers in Mother Teresa International Airport|
“Similar operations will continue and all those Albanian citizens who break the visa-free travel rules into the Schengen area will be repatriated and barred from entering the EU for five years,” Albania police chief Hysni Burgaj said.
The migrants were returned, escorted by Albanian police in a joint operation with Belgian authorities. Tirana has also agreed to pay the costs of their repatriation.
The group is part of a wave of people, mainly from the region of Shkodra in northern Albania, who have sought to use the abolition of visa requirments to enter the EU to claim asylum in Western Europe.
Visa-free travel to the EU took effect for Albania on December 15, 2010, allowing Albanian citizens to enter the European Union’s borderless Schengen zone.
Following the visa liberalization process there were a few applications for asylum from Albanians in the EU. But this was followed by a spike in applications over the last year, which has become a matter of concern to the authorities at home and in Europe.
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