Foul play behind surge in Albanian asylum seekers: Belgium

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Belgium warned Tuesday that foul play may be the cause for a surge in Albanian asylum seekers this month, but said they would be sent home quickly in accordance with visa-free regime regulations.

At least 240 Albanian citizens have sought political asylum since the start of the month, compared to only 44 in September, Freddy Rosemont, the head of Belgium's Asylum and Migration Department, said in Tirana.

"If this trend continues by the end of the month the number of Albanian asylum seekers will reach some 400," Rosemont said.

"We are sure that behind those people there is an entire organisation, networks that provide documents and fake papers in exchange for huge ammounts of money," he said.

Most of the asylum seekers from Albania present documents and certificates that allege they could become victims of a vendetta, centuries-old "code of honour" killings in the north Albanian mountains, Rosemont said.

At least 80 percent of asylum seekers in Belgium are from the northern Albanian towns Shkodra and Kukesi, while the others come from the capital Tirana, Belgium police said.

Rosemont said all asylum seekers would receive a negative response and be sent back home to Albania as soon as possible.

"All Albanian officials and non-governmental organisation who deliver those fake papers will be brought to justice," Albanian police director Hysni Burgaj said.

In November the European Union suspended the visa regime for Albanian citizens throughout the Schengen zone grouping 25 EU and non-EU countries.

However, the visa-free regime can be suspended if the EU concludes it has been abused.

© 2011 AFP

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