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Immigration

Flow of asylum seekers from Kosovo drops sharply in Germany

The number of Kosovars asking for asylum has fallen by 94 percent in the last two months, according to a German official. Berlin has said the vast majority of migrants are economic, and will not be allowed to stay.

During early February, German officials would get up 1,500 asylum request from Kosovars every day. However, the daily number of applicants sunk below 100 in April, president of Federal Office for Migration and Refugees Manfred Schmidt said to German Rheinischen Post newspaper.

"The people have understood that asylum system in Germany can not be a solution for their difficult economical situation in Kosovo," Schmidt said.

Number of people from Kosovo asking for asylum in Germany had suddenly jumped in the beginning of the year, reaching some 11.700 applications in March, and putting the small Balkan country at first place when it comes to number of asylum applicants, ahead of Iraq and Syria.

Poverty no reason for asylum

The unexpected wave of immigration is believed to have been triggered by economical hardships. Kosovo is among the poorest countries in Europe, with unemployment reaching 45 percent.

However, political asylum in Germany is reserved for people whose lives are at risk should they return to their countries. This is not the case for the overwhelming majority of Kosovo applicants, leading German authorities to approve only 0.2 percent of their requests for the current year.

Expensive asylum lottery

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, although the move remains disputed by Belgrade and its allies. Since Belgrade's official position is that Kosovo is still part of Serbia, the refugees can move across Serbian territory more or less freely, and attempt to enter EU illegally at the Hungarian border.

People-smuggling remains a lucrative line of work in the Balkans, with refugees paying thousands of euros for a chance to seek asylum in Germany, Austria or Scandinavia.

Easier to reject claims

Faced with a wave of Kosovo immigrants, Germany recently introduced a fast-track procedure of dealing with asylum claims. The authorities are now requested to provide an answer within two weeks, down from an average of four months, leading to faster deportations.

The new, faster procedure is one of the reason for fewer refugees, the German official Manfred Schmidt said. According to him, another reason for the lower numbers is a media campaign by the Prishtina government, which provided information on the chances of getting an asylum.

dj/xx (AFP, dpa, epd)

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