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feature 08 Sep 17

Reports of Migrant ‘Exodus’ Mystify Kosovo Police

Despite reports of packed migrant buses, Kosovo police say they are unaware of any fresh mass movement of asylum-seekers to Western Europe.

Perparim Isufi, Adelina Ahmeti
Police in Kosovo can do very little to prevent people from leaving Kosovo. Photo: BIRN.

Nexhat Blakçori and five members of his family took the bus from Pristina to Belgrade, on a quest to find a better life in some other country.

Disappointed with the grim economic situation in his impoverished homeland, Blakçori, like many others in Kosovo, would like to try his luck elsewhere. “If I had a job that paid 400 euros a month, I would never leave,” Blakçori told BIRN on Wednesday.

Another Kosovar who did not want to be named also confirmed his intention to leave for Germany.

“I intend to go to Germany through Hungary because there is no perspective here. I have look for work everywhere but could not find any. There is no life here,” he said.

 

Police in Kosovo can do very little to prevent such people from leaving the country.

Meanwhile, Pristina bus station has stopped all bus lines to Belgrade.

“We have cancelled all bus lines to Belgrade and this decision will be in force until a future announcement,” Pristina Bus Station Director Ylber Çitaku told BIRN on Friday.

An agreement reached between Kosovo and Serbia during EU-facilitated talks in Brussels allows Kosovo citizens to cross the border with Serbia with only their ID cards.

From northern Serbia, they then try to cross the border into Hungary at night, usually with the assistance of smugglers, travelling illegally because they still need visas to be in the EU.

Towards the end of 2014, with a peak in early 2015, thousands of Kosovo Albanians migrated to EU countries via Hungary, intending to seek asylum. Hardly any got it.

In response to queries from BIRN about another mass “exodus”, Kosovo police dismissed the reports, saying that only one bus left Pristina for Belgrade on Thursday night, as usual.

“Kosovo Police have not registered any increase in the flow of passengers at Kosovo-Serbia border points in recent days. There is no confirmation by any EU member state either about any increase in requests from Kosovo citizens seeking asylum,” the police told BIRN on Friday.

The police said they keep constant track of migrant-smugglers, having arrested 52 suspects and 12 criminal groups over 2014 and 2015.

“During 2016, there was a decrease in such cases,” the police said.

Former Kosovo Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhaj, currently an MP, on Thursday said certain bodies outside the country were trying to stir up false fears of another migrant exodus from Kosovo.

“Four or five weeks ago, I had information that certain institutions outside Kosovo are trying to create a climate of nervousness and panic on migration. I have told the security institutions to deal with this issue,” Hoxhaj said.

He called on citizens to not fall prey to any provocations.

A major factor behind migration from Kosovo was, and 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.

While many Kosovars slip unnoticed into the EU, very few have succeeded in obtaining official asylum status.

By June 2015, EU authorities said that they had returned around 7,500 illegal migrants back to Kosovo.

In 2016, a report of German Interior Ministry listed Albania and Kosovo among the three top countries whose citizens requested asylum over 2015.  

But whether another wave of asylum-seekers is gathering is unclear.

Hungary’s embassy in Kosovo said that the Budapest authorities had not registered any migrants from Kosovo lately.

“Currently, no Kosovo citizens are in the transit zones operated by Hungarian authorities on the border with Serbia,” the embassy told the Pristina-based daily newspaper Zeri.

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