Rejected asylum-seekers attack media on return to Macedonia

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A group of 60 Macedonians who returned from Germany after being denied asylum tried to attack and verbally abused journalists covering their arrival at Skopje airport Thursday, police said.

"When they came out from the airport building, they started to verbally abuse journalists and tried to break their cameras and hit reporters," police spokesman Ivo Kotevski told reporters.

It was unclear why the group attacked the journalists, but Kotevski said police were investigating the case to see whether there are grounds for possible criminal charges.

The group -- 59 ethnic Albanians and one Roma -- were sent back to Skopje earlier Thursday after their request for asylum in Germany was found to be found baseless.

Among the group were 12 women and 36 children, Kotevski said.

Since the EU abolished the visa-requirement system for Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009, some EU member states, notably Sweden, Belgium and Germany, have seen an increase of asylum-seekers from those countries, mostly Roma and Albanians.

The European Commission has warned Serbia and Macedonia they could lose visa-free travel privileges if they do not stop the influx.

This was the second case of organised return of rejected asylum-seekers from Germany, after one 36 people in December.

In December, the EU extended visa-free travel rights to Albania and Bosnia but with a tight monitoring system and the possibility of suspending the privilege in case of abuses.

© 2011 AFP

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