- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
The European Stability Initiative, ESI, says measures taken to curb the number of asylum seekers from Macedonia and Serbia are proving ineffective.
The European Stability Initiative, ESI, a think tank, has presented its findings on the wave of Balkan asylum seekers, criticising the measures that Serbia and Macedonia have taken to reduce the influx. The report is to be released in the coming days.
Following the lifting of the visa requirement for Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in December 2009, a rising number of Serbia and Macedonian citizens started requesting asylum in the EU in 2010.
According to the ESI, the asylum seekers were mostly Roma people from the two countries who as economic migrants had gone overwhelmingly to Belgium, Germany and Sweden.
They have chosen the three EU member states as they have the longest average length of asylum procedures during which asylum seekers receive financial support - Belgium: 9.9 months; Germany: 6.8 months; Sweden: 4.3 months. In France it takes only 15 days.
As it has turned out, almost all their claims have been rejected and hardly any of them have qualified for international protection.
By the end of the year, 7,550 Macedonians and 17,715 Serbian nationals had claimed asylum in the three states. In Macedonia's case that was 803 per cent more than in 2009 and 335 per cent more in the case of Serbia, including Kosovo.
According to the ESI, figures remain high in the 2011 as well. Ninety-one Macedonians and 106 Serbians requested asylum in May alone. The average monthly figure in 2010 stood at 90 for Macedonians and 127 for Serbians.
The rush has prompted EU member states to demand serious action from the Western Balkan governments, including investigations into possibly deceiving tour operators and bus companies; information campaigns; and checks at the borders.
"The measures that the EU has pushed Western Balkan countries to take do not make sense," the ESI findings show.
"Hardly any [tour operators] are found to be luring people to the EU with false promises," the ESI noted.
The two governments also ran information campaigns "but the fact that asylum is hardly ever granted does not deter those who misuse the system," it added.
Borders checks cannot work unless the border guards lock in all their Roma but this would imply racial profiling and racial discrimination, the ESI says.
The ESI said the problem can be solved better by restricting access to the benefits of EU asylum systems.
"It is in the hands of EU member states to solve it. Visa-free travel following a formal visa liberalisation process can remain –and still is - a success," the ESI says.
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