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.