Germany tightens asylum rules for Balkans
Germany on Wednesday moved to tighten asylum rules for applicants from three Balkan states as security in the region improves.
The cabinet passed a draft law making it easier for authorities to deport asylum-seekers from once war-ravaged Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina following a surge in applicants in recent years.
"This applies to cases in which there is no threat of political persecution," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters, noting that individuals could still make claims if they had justified fears about returning home.
After the Schengen passport-free zone gradually lifted visa requirements for citizens of the three countries in 2009 and 2010, the number of asylum-seekers to Germany, Europe's top economy, soared.
In 2013, Serbs were the largest group of asylum-seekers with some 18,000 applications, up by more than 40 percent over the previous year, the government said.
The vast majority were ultimately rejected on the grounds that persecution, torture, random violence and inhumane treatment were not common in Serbia, a fact the draft law said also applies to Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The new rules, which still require parliamentary approval, will be accompanied by guidelines allowing asylum-seekers to legally work in Germany after just three months in the country versus nine months currently.
The German Institute for Human Rights, a non-governmental advocacy group, condemned the draft law for failing to protect members of the impoverished Roma minority, calling their situation in the Balkans "disastrous".
The interior ministry, which sponsored the measure, said that Roma faced discrimination but not persecution.
Germany's left-right "grand coalition" government is debating extending the list of affected countries to Albania and Montenegro.
© 2014 AFP