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Balkan asylum seekers fear deportation from Germany | Human Rights News

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In Germany, where a dramatic increase in asylum applications has been recorded this year, much of the public and media attention has been devoted to refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

But more than 40 percent of asylum seekers registered in Germany in 2015 came from a neighboring conflict-free region: the Balkans.

Some 167,287 citizens of Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for asylum in Germany between January 2014 and September 2015, including 110,716 this year alone. In the first nine months of 2015, the total number of asylum seekers from Albania and Kosovo (79,848) exceeded the number of applications from Syrians (73,615), while there were more requests from Serbs (22,958) than from Afghans (16,360).

“The economic situation in these countries is bad,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said of the Western Balkan countries. recent interview with Bild newspaper. “It is understandable that people are looking for a better future elsewhere. But this is not a reason to grant asylum.”

In recent years, German authorities have systematically rejected 99 percent of all asylum applications from Balkan nationals. Despite this, tens of thousands of mostly young Balkans continue to leave their safe but poor countries of origin to try for a new life in Europe’s strongest economy.

Djordje Buric, a 32-year-old Serbian asylum seeker, is one of them.

Buric spent the first three decades of his life in Belgrade, before realizing that for his children’s future, he had to try to build his life elsewhere.

“We finished school (vocational school), me and my wife too,” he explains. “I finished server school and she finished baking school. But in Serbia it is very difficult to find work at the moment. What can I do? Go to the store and steal milk for my children?

Today, Buric lives with his wife and two children in a refugee center on the outskirts of Neuhardenberg, a small German town near the Polish border. The Burics arrived in Germany in December 2013, after an 18-hour bus journey.

The family spent several months in temporary refugee centers until they were transferred to Neuhardenberg in April 2014. German authorities rejected their requests for asylum, but Buric appealed and their cases are currently pending.

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Since submitting their first asylum application, the Burics have benefited from government assistance granted to all asylum seekers in Germany. This includes free accommodation, basic health care and a monthly allowance of 325 euros (about $355) per adult and half for each child. As a result, they have more income than they could probably earn in their home country.

But the family only has temporary residence permits that can be revoked at any time, and Buric says he is fully aware that at any time the German authorities could come and say: “Pack your business, you are going back to Serbia.”

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Despite uncertainty over their status, Buric rejects the idea of ​​his family voluntarily returning to Serbia.

As Roma, Buric says, they face racial discrimination as well as a harsh economic reality in Serbia.

“They call us Gypsies – Roma – and it is very difficult for us to find work,” he says. “For four years, I went to school (vocational college) every day. My parents paid for this school for me and gave me everything I needed, but when I finished this school, I can’t find a job in my country because I’m a little black, because I’m not white.

“It’s horrible when you live in your country and people consider you a foreigner,” he adds.

But Germany considers Serbia a safe country and Buric acknowledges that even if he does not find his country welcoming, he is in no physical danger there.

Related: Why Al Jazeera doesn’t talk about Mediterranean “migrants”

The German authorities recently decided to to strenghten their position against migrants from “safe countries of origin», like Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since then last monthAlbania and Kosovo.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has placed advertisements in the Western Balkan countries informing residents that they should not come to Germany because they will not be granted asylum, says spokesperson Kira Gehrmann of the Office.

In an email exchange with Al Jazeera, Gerhrmann said asylum seekers from Western Balkan countries arriving in Germany today are concentrated in mass facilities close to Germany’s external borders, where they can be deported more quickly.

“Their applications are currently prioritized over other countries,” Gerhrmann said. “The same thing is done with the Syrian applications. In the case of the Western Balkans, it is about being able to send them back more quickly and, in the case of the Syrians, about being able to integrate them into German society as quickly as possible.”

Last week, Interior Minister De Maizière said: “Tens of thousands of rejected asylum seekers from the Balkans are expected to leave our country.” He has pledged to speed up deportations of those whose asylum applications have been rejected.

As a failed asylum seeker, Buric knows he could be deported any day. He is frustrated that his request for asylum coincides with an unprecedented influx of people fleeing persecution and war and heading to Germany. He fears that the current refugee crisis will diminish his chances of obtaining permanent residency in the country.

But even though he feels overwhelmed by a sense of insecurity, he says he tries to stay optimistic.

“I don’t know what to think anymore because the refugee situation is very complicated at the moment,” Buric recalls. “My dream is that one day I will get (refugee status) and stay here. And I will fight until the end to get there. So, we’ll see.


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