JANUARY 6 2013 14:04h

2012 sees record number of Balkan asylum seekers in EU, says ESI

Massive arrests of foreign citizens in Greece

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2012 is likely to be a year with a record number of asylum seekers from the Western Balkans in European Union member states, which is why the matter of suspension of the current via-free regime is again topical regarding holders of passports of Western Balkan countries, according Alexandra Stiglmayer, a analyst of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) , a think-tank dealing with the Balkans, Turkey and EU enlargement questions.

Speaking to the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily, Stiglmayer said that from January through September 2012, as many as 33,500 people from the Western Balkans sought asylum within the European Union, while in the record 2010 year, the total number of such applications was 29,680.

According to her interview published on Sunday, Stiglmayer recalls that there is a group of countries led by Germany that advocates the introduction of swift suspension of visa-free EU travel in an effort to halt an influx of new immigrants.

Models for some countries to introduce visa requirements in a six-month period are being considered currently, and according to such plans, the European Commission will be expected, after that six-month period, to give its assessment whether there are risks of a growing influx of asylum seekers from a certain country.

In the event of the assessment that the country poses risks in this regard, the mechanism for permanent visa regime will be launched, Stiglmayer said.

According to her, Serbia is among the top countries that that produce asylum seekers and it is on the fifth place on the rankings of all countries from which immigrants come. Macedonia ranks 20th, Bosnia and Albania are 28th and 30th respectively.

The European Stability Initiative's figures show that, Roma make up 90% of asylum seekers with Serbia's passports, and their share is 60% among Macedonian asylum seekers. As for Bosnia, the ethnic background of those who apply for asylum in EU is different,

This nongovernmental organisation does not believe that the suspension of visa-free regime will be a good solution as such a move would punish those who are not to be blamed for the abuse of the current rules.

Stiglmayer said that the countries receiving immigrants should shorten the procedure for dealing with the asylum applications which would bring about the positive impact.

(Hina)