Brussels: Ethnic Albanians seeking asylum

Brussels: Ethnic Albanians seeking asylum

About 334 Macedonians and about the same number of Serbs have signed up as refugees in February, a historic peak.  The massive flood is causing suspicion or an organized network, says Le Soir.  The asylum seekers believe they have a right to shelter and meals, as well as welfare.

On December 19th the EU, with the exception of the UK and Ireland, opened its border to residents of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, and dropped the visa requirement.

Like most other Western European countries, Belgium got many ethnic Albanians passing through.  They are fleeing the situation in their area, the border-zone between Macedonia and Serbia, and are attracted by the Belgian asylum policy, which they see as very tolerant.

Dirk Van den Bulck, Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons: "In the past they needed a visa or turned to smuggling routes, which was of course much more expensive.  Now they have the possibility to make their trip very cheap."

Since there's a very real chance that their asylum request would be turned down, the refugees run a double risk of losing, says Van den Bulck.  They must invest a certain budget for their trip, and when they get to Belgium they usually end up on the street.  There's no place in the refugee shelters of Fedasil (the federal refugee agency), and the refugees are referred to municipal welfare offices.

Van den Bulck is concerned about the credibility of the Belgian asylum procedure.  "This flood is crowding out other asylum requests.  After an analysis of the profile of these refugees we're going to deal with the files as quickly as possible.  Both here and in their homeland we're going to start a campaign which makes it clear that an asylum request in their case is doomed to fail."

The Foreigner Service is taking the situation seriously and in cooperation with State Secretary Melchior Wathelet has opened an investigation.

Source: De Standaard (Dutch)

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