Following reports from investigative news website "Insajderi," Kosovo PM Isa Mustafa has confirmed that his brother sought asylum in Germany. Last year saw the biggest exodus of Kosovars since the 1998-99 war.
Confirming the reports on Sunday, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said his brother, as well as some nieces and nephews, were among the tens of thousands of Kosovars who tried to enter the European Union in 2015.
The premier said his family's journey showed that his relatives "also face the same destiny" as the rest of Kosovo's 1.8 million citizens.
"It's true. I was informed after it occurred ... that he had requested asylum outside the country in order to seek medical assistance for a difficult disease which could not be cured in Kosovo," Mustafa wrote on his Facebook page.
Like thousands of other Kosovars, Mustafa's brother Ragip initially crossed into the EU via the Serbian-Hungarian border last year, before the Balkan states closed their borders. After traveling on to France, where his request for asylum was rejected, Ragip made his way back to Germany.
There, in June 2015, he sought asylum for a second time in the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate, just days before his prime minister brother was received by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Ragip has now returned to the Kosovar capital, Pristina, where he is reportedly in a "grave condition."
Under Germany's refugee policy, Kosovo - like neighboring Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia - is regarded as a "safe country," meaning that migrants from the Balkan states are unlikely to receive asylum.
According to EU statistic office Eurostat, around 70,000 Kosovars applied for asylum in the last two years, making it the fourth largest asylum-seeking nation after Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The huge influx of Kosovars was the result of a number of factors, including the relaxation of travel rules, which allowed Kosovars to reach the EU border via Serbia. Political turmoil and street unrest, fuelled by poverty, high unemployment and corruption also played a pivotal role.
"As prime minister I am trying to find a solution, to ensure visa liberalization, to attract investment and to create job opportunities, to improve the health system, so that fewer of our citizens need to request healing outside the country," Mustafa wrote on Sunday.
Following the 1998-1999 war, Kosovo was put under UN administration, but after declaring independence in 2008, the former Serbian breakaway remains one of the poorest states in Europe.
ksb/jil (Reuters, AFP)