Friday

19th Apr 2019

Euro-deputies back suspending Balkan visa-free regime as 'last resort'

  • Almost 12,000 Serbian claims for asylum were made in Germany last year (Photo: wfbakker2)

A sudden increase in unfounded EU asylum claims from Balkan nations could see their visa-free regimes temporarily revoked, say euro-deputies.

The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee on Monday (8 April) voted in favour of suspending visa-free regimes in case of "substantial and sudden increases" in irregular migrant numbers or unfounded asylum applications but “only as a last resort.”

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The so-called ‘suspension clause’ in the EU visa regulation was proposed by the European Commission after thousands from Balkan nations claim asylum in the EU. The countries could see their visa free regimes suspended up to one year or longer if necessary.

Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia saw their visa requirements to enter the EU lifted in December, 2009. Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina followed a year later in December, 2010.

Shortly after having their visa’s lifted, families and young men - mostly from Serbia and Macedonia - arrived in the EU to seek asylum.

The parliament will now enter negotiations with member states to agree on a final text.

The numbers

Prior to having the visa lifted in 2009, some 940 nationals from Macedonia and just over 5,000 Serbs sought asylum in the EU.

This jumped to 7,550 and 17,715 respectively in 2010 before dropping in 2011 and then increasing again in 2012.

Overall asylum claims from around the word to the EU in 2011 was just over 300,000.

Altogether, the five Balkan nations in 2012 accounted for around 41,500 asylum claims, though data as of February 2013 is missing from around a dozen member states.

Around half went to Germany after a July 2012 ruling by the constitutional court said cash payments to asylum seekers had to be increased.

A family of four prior to the ruling received €120 a month if housed in a reception centre. This was increased to €420.

If the family has to care for itself, it now receives €1,150 a month where previously it received €780.

Of the 11,280 decisions made for Serbian claims in Germany in 2011, only 10 obtained refugee status and subsidiary protection.

The European Stability Initiative, a Brussels-based research and policy institute with a focus on the Balkans and Turkey, says the promise of more money for asylum seekers in Germany is the primary reason behind the increase of claims.

Balkan visa-free regime under scrutiny

EU ministers of interior are set to discuss visa policy in Brussels on Thursday with several member states wanting to reintroduce visas for passport holders from Western Balkan countries.

Ethnic Albanians flee poverty after EU visa move

Ethnic Albanians from the war-ravaged Likove region in Macedonia are fleeing to Belgium after the EU dropped visa requirements in December, but their journey is leading to disappointment.

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