Serbia is working to stem the flow of bogus asylum seekers, who threaten Schengen access.
By Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 23/05/11
Asylum seekers board a bus out of Brussels for repatriation to Serbia and Macedonia in March 2010.
Due to the torrent of Serbians seeking asylum in EU member countries, Brussels has warned Belgrade that the future of visa-free travel in the Schengen area is at risk.
Visa requirements were lifted for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro in December 2009. Over the course of the following 12 months, 17,000 people from Serbia requested asylum in the EU, mostly in Sweden, Belgium and Germany.
They weren't fleeing political persecution, rather, they were poor people who believe that in the richer Western European countries, life would be eased by government subsidies. About 95% are Gypsies, the rest mostly members of the Albanian minority in Presevo and Bujanovac in southern Serbia.
And in their zeal to move, many have become targets of corruption and fraud.
"My friend in Nis paid 1,500 euros to a police officer to get a passport, because he had no ID card, nor a permanent home address. He wanted to go to Switzerland because he cannot find a job," Cakan Dujic, a member of the Gypsy community, tells SETimes. "He never received the passport. He must now pay back the debt because the money was borrowed, and the police officer pretends not to know him."