German state interior ministers have agreed to measures calling for faster processing of asylum applications from Kosovars. The German politicians, however, did not agree that Kosovo is free of political persecution.
The decision was made during a telephone conference on Friday among the ministers of Germany's 16 states, and means recent arrivals could receive written refusals as soon as two weeks after they arrive.
Currently it can take months or even years to investigate an application on the grounds of political persecution.
The ministers, however, did not reach an agreement on calling Kosovo a country free of political persecution. Such a label would means claims for asylum would no longer be necessary in Germany and migrants could be immediately sent back to Kosovo.
German police headed to Serbia
This follows the Thursday's announcement that 20 German federal police officers will be sent to Serbia in an effort to shore-up an unfenced border with Hungary. Many traffickers are taking advantage of the area to move Kosovars into the European Union.
The officers will advise Serbian forces on telling fake documents from genuine travel visas that allow travelers into the so-called Schengen Zone, where border controls have been abolished between 26 European member nations.
Many of the migrants, fleeing endemic poverty, walk up to 10 kilometers across snow-covered countryside to reach the small Hungarian town of Asotthalom. The town's mayor Laszlo Toroczkai says since early December between 500 and 1,000 people arrive every day.
Processing in 14 days
Thousands of those migrants have then made their way to Germany and filed claims for political asylum. Earlier in the week Berlin admitted that just 0.3 percent of these claims had been approved.
A spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry, Johannes Dimroth, said the target of 14 days could be achieved by putting all Kosovars asylum applicants in a few reception centers, and sending in extra interpreters, pro-bono lawyers and adjudicators to review their cases there.
Centers will be opened in four German states: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that relations between Kosovo and the European Union could suffer as a result of the decision, and could even endanger Kosovo's future as a member of the EU.
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden and Belgium have all seen a surge in people emigrating from Kosovo since December last year.
In January alone, Hungary saw applications for asylum from more than 10,000 Kosovars, compared to around 11,000 for the whole of the previous year.
Germany also saw record numbers in 2014, recording the fourth highest number since the Federal Republic was created.
Numbers have also been boosted by a regulation allowing Kosovars to leave their country with just an ID, since autumn 2014.
Germany has also designed a campaign aiming to convince people thinking of leaving Kosovo for Germany that it was "hopeless" to apply for asylum there. But he dismissed suggestions of flying Kosovars home en masse in order to set an example, saying "the ones we want to stigmatize are the human traffickers."
On Thursday Kosovo's own interior minister Skender Hyseni called on European countries not to immediately return migrants to their homelands. He said despite the fact that "Kosovo doesn't offer the best conditions to make a living," it was still a "safe country."
Human rights organization Pro Asylum also criticized the action, saying there was no chance of it being "unprejudiced."
an/sms (dpa, Reuters)