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Serbia pledges to curb EU asylum seekers

Published on 23/05/2011

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said Monday that border controls for people exiting Serbia would be stepped up but also asked the EU to control its own external frontiers more tightly.

Belgium and Sweden have complained in recent moths that there is a large influx of Serbian nationals, manly ethnic Albanians and Roma, who are seeking asylum after the European Union agreed to visa free travel to the Schengen zone for Serbs.

“Beefed up security around the border zone is certainly not only the job of Serbia but also of those countries where Serbian nationals enter the European Union,” Dacic said after meeting Belgian Asylum and Immigration Minister Melchior Wathelet, referring to Serbia’s neighbours in the EU like Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Serbia has started to ask travellers leaving for the EU to show they have a return ticket and enough money to live on during their intended stay.

According to Belgian media, Serbia has been in the top five countries of origin for asylum seekers for months. They reported that April saw a drop from previous months when almost 200 Serb nationals sought asylum to around 100.

Dacic said that the recent drop in demands was due to Serbia’s stronger controls but stressed that the numbers were still high, without giving figures.

“Unfortunately we have to notice that the figures are still too high even if there is a slow decrease (in the) last months,” Wathelet agreed.

He pointed to the upcoming meeting of the EU council of ministers where an expert report on the problem of Serbian asylum seekers will be discussed but stressed the need for improvement.

“We need results, we have to have better figures,” he said.

Dacic said Belgrade would ask the European Commission for an opinion on what can be done to deter so-called false asylum seekers, migrating for economic reasons.

On Tuesday the European Commission will propose temporarily restoring visa requirements for citizens from countries that abuse the system.

After several EU states complained about asylum seekers from Serbia and Macedonia, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem will propose the introduction of a safeguard clause to permit the reintroduction of visa requirements on third countries.

The proposal will be submitted to EU interior ministers for approval at a June 9-10 meeting in Luxembourg.

The EU removed visa restrictions for citizens from Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009 to travel within the border-free Schengen area, which includes 22 EU nations plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.