Tougher laws against migrants from the Balkans | From the Balkans to Germany: Facts, not myths | DW | 20.09.2015
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From the Balkans to Germany

Tougher laws against migrants from the Balkans

Asylum applications submitted by migrants from the Western Balkans are generally refused in Germany. In the future, things will get tougher for these people, and deportation will happen even faster.

Over 40 percent of all asylum applications in Germany come from people from the Western Balkans, mainly from migrants from Kosovo, Albania and Serbia.

The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is the only authority that is allowed to deal with these applications. The rules under which they operate are determined by the 1951 Refugee Convention, the German Constitution and German asylum processing laws. These laws were tightened recently in Germany.

Classification of the Western Balkans

The German government has already declared Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia as "safe countries of origin." According to Germany's federal law guiding asylum procedures, the legal presumption in the case of these countries is that neither political prosecution nor inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment occurs. This means, a return to the country should be safe and possible.

The current German government wants Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro to also be given this status. These countries want to join the EU and, therefore, can't be treated as countries where persecution takes place, says German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In addition, these nations have told Germany that they want to be considered safe countries. The reason: this will help make sure that they don't lose any more young people to this most recent wave of immigration.

Reasons for refusal

Poverty or dissatisfaction with a country's political situation are not a basis for asylum according to the 1951 refugee convention. Migrants from the Western Balkans are often not able to prove any other reasons for seeking asylum when the authorities check their profiles.

For that reason, most applications are stamped as "unfounded" and refused. In the case of an appeal, German administrative courts barely have any room to move. For that reason, the number of asylum applications granted for Western Balkan arrivals is particularly low in comparison to asylum seekers from other countries.

Little reason for hope

Human rights and refugee organizations often mention that Roma people are often persecuted in the Balkan states. The number of rejected asylum applications in Germany shows that this group is seldom classified as really under threat here by the authorities in Germany.

Alexander Thal from the Bavarian Refugee Council organization (Flüchtlingsrat Bayern) says that due to the political pressure caused by the many refugees moving into Germany at the moment, proper checks are not really taking place. A lot of deportations seem to be taking place even in the middle of investigations into cases of hardship.

There is not much chance that the political opposition will slow things down either. Just recently a Greens party state premier supported recent changes to the asylum laws.

Tightening of laws begins

The German Office for Migration and Refugees is beefing up its capabilities too. Special units are now dedicated to focusing on getting the asylum applications from the Western Balkans cleared up. The German Interior Ministry has promised BAMF 1000 new employees.

In the German state of Bavaria, special centers have been set up for asylum seekers from the Western Balkans, in Manching and Bamberg. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia has plans for three centers. Migrants from the countries involved are now not distributed to other municipalities.

The advantage is that "We have short distances to travel," says a spokesperson from the Bavarian Interior Ministry. It means asylum seekers can be contacted faster, and managers are on hand all the time.

In these centers, the migrants are given a non-cash benefit, instead of money, and the time taken for processing the applicants is down from six to four weeks, say the authorities.

More deportations

Migrants from the Balkans who are refused residency in Germany are flown back to their country of origin by plane. Some migrants are forced to pay for their return flight completely, according to the Bavarian office.

From August 1 of this year, it has also been possible to block the migrant completely from returning to Germany, or to ban them from entering the Schengen Area at all in the future.

All of these measures combined mean that the number of new arrivals from the Western Balkans has already started to decrease.