Ger­many stems tide of Balkan asy­lum seek­ers


Ger­many, over­whelmed by peo­ple flee­ing war and poverty, is try­ing to de­ter asy­lum seek­ers from the Balkans, a re­gion now con­sid­ered safe at least from armed con­flict.

Ideas range from cut­ting refugees’ al­lowances, to chan­nel­ing them into sep­a­rate hold­ing camps, to cam­paigns in their home coun­tries to dis­cour­age them from trav­el­ing to Europe’s big­gest econ­omy.

About half of Ger­many’s 300,000 asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions since Jan­uary have come from the south­east Euro­pean re­gion that in­cludes Al­ba­nia, Bos­nia, Bulgaria, Croa­tia, Kosovo, Mace­do­nia, Mon­tene­gro and Ser­bia.

In the first five months of 2015, more than 32,000 Koso­vars ar­rived, for ex­am­ple — more than came from war-torn Syria.

“The high num­ber of mi­grants from these coun­tries di­verts re­sources that we need to take care of peo­ple from the cri­sis re­gions,” said Man­fred Sch­midt, head of the Of­fice for Mi­gra­tion and Refugees.

Ger­many, now Europe’s num­ber one des­ti­na­tion for asy­lum seek­ers, has strug­gled to process, house and feed a record num­ber, which is ex­pected to top 500,000 this year.

Of­ten of Roma ori­gin, many Balkan na­tion­als come to Ger­many in hopes of find­ing work and a bet­ter life — a mo­ti­va­tion that, Ber­lin is at pains to point out, does not qual­ify them for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum.

Fewer than 0.2 per­cent of their ap­pli­ca­tions are suc­cess­ful, but they of­ten wait for months in refugee cen­ters, apart­ments, residential con­tain­ers and even tent cities while their ap­pli­ca­tions are pro­cessed.

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