news 31 Jan 13

Balkan States Unite to Tackle EU Asylum Concerns

Six Western Balkan states have vowed to cooperate in solving the problem of illegal immigrants to EU countries, following threats to reintroduce visas to the region.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

Leaders of six Western Balkan countries have concluded that closer cooperation will overcome the problem of people wrongly seeking asylum in Western Europe.

At a gathering in Sarajevo on January 30 of the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative, MARRI, Ivica Dacic, Serbian Prime Minister and Interior Minister, said the region needed help in solving the problem, emphasizing that Balkan countries have to stick together.

“At last, we have started working together on overcoming this problem,” Dacic said, “and the EU countries have realized that these problems can't be solved by repressive methods; the countries have to take measures themselves.”

The MARRI initiative gathered representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The issue of mass migration and asylum is a worrying one for the region, as it endangers the liberalized visa arangements that these countries have with the EU.

“Every day we are faced with threats that the free visa regime will be suspended for the Western Balkans – I think that is wrong,” Dacic said.

He said Serbia has the biggest problem with people seeking asylum in the West but emphasized that fake asylum seekers also come to Serbia, mostly from Greece.

“There is around 5,000 asylum seekers in Serbia from Greece,” he said. “They are not Greek, but illegal immigrants coming to Greece, and through the Balkans they try to get to the EU... mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine,” he said.

Bosnian Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic said the number of people from Bosnia seeking asylum in Western Europe had increased, but the government was working on solving the issue, confident that visas will not be reintroduced.

“There are around 4,000 fake asylum seekers from Bosnia, 2,025 in Germany, 1,789 in Sweden, and the rest in Luxembourg and Switzerland,”  Radoncic said. “Statistics tell of an increase but we are working on this.”

Dacic added that Serbia expected help from EU countries when it comes to determining who exactly from Serbia is seeking asylum.

“We can't take any measures [against them] because they don't give us any names, saying it is violating their human rights. How are we supposed to know [who they are]?,” Dacic said.

“Is someone expecting that we have officers on the borders who will kick all Roma and Albanians off the buses,” he said, referring to the fact that most of thr asylum seekers in question are Roma or ethnic Albanians.

Dacic added that shortening the time limit for deciding asylum cases in Western Europe would have results, as well as some other measures.

“Bringing in visas again would send a very bad message to the Western Balkans and would be a direct stimulus to anti-European forces in the region,” Dacic concluded.


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