Failed asylum seekers return home to Serbia, Macedonia

12th March 2010, Comments 0 comments

A first busload of ethnic Albanians who tried but failed to get asylum in Belgium arrived in Serbia and Macedonia on Thursday, its occupants uncertain about their future.

KUMANOVO - Nineteen people from four families got off the bus in the southern Serbian town of Presevo, with the remaining 25 people disembarking in Kumanovo, in northern Macedonia.

Many of the returnees shielded their faces from onlookers as they got into waiting cars and taxis, but some worried about what the future would hold in their impoverished hometowns where opportunities are few.

Travel agents in the Presevo region have been telling would-be ethnic Albanian migrants to western Europe that they would be able to find political asylum, a house and a job in Belgium.

"I paid 1,000 euros for all five of us" to travel to Belgium, taking advantage of visa-free travel within EU member states, said Agron Zejnulahu, a man in his 40s from Bestranje, a hamlet near Presevo.

"I don't know what I will do here," he told AFP. "The Belgium authorities were correct with us, but I don't know how we will live here."

Berti Jegor, a Belgian refugee commission official who accompanied the returnees on the bus -- which arrived in Presevo under police escort -- said the journey had been uneventful.

"They came back voluntarily and everything went on very smoothly," he said.

Fifty ethnic Albanians from Serbia and Macedonia sought asylum in Belgium in January, a number that swelled to 330 in February, according to Belgian statistics.

"I don't know what I will do now," Abdulsamet Jashari, from Alicence village near Presevo, told AFP on Thursday. "I have no job... I went there (to Belgium) to try to find a better life, but they sent me back."


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