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Sweden takes lead in EU Balkan visa push

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Sweden takes lead in EU Balkan visa push
14:10 CEST+02:00
Key EU states led by Germany and Sweden pressed Thursday for the reintroduction of visas for people coming from Balkan EU candidate states so as to curb soaring unfounded asylum requests.

"Everyone must live up to their responsibilities before joining the European Union," Swedish Interior Minister Tobias Billström said before a meeting with his EU colleagues.

Candidate countries should "improve the lot of their minority populations," Billström said, adding: "These people do not have the right of asylum, they are leaving their country for economic reasons."

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden are all calling on the European Commission to allow them to reintroduce controls after Serbia and several other Balkan states were given visa free status in 2010 under the EU's Schengen freedom of movement provisions.

They say that many people are abusing the system to seek asylum in their

countries, and since each request has to be properly examined, the system has

become totally clogged up.

The Commission and the European Parliament are currently negotiating a safeguard clause which could allow a member state to seek a temporary suspension of the visa free arrangements but it has not been adopted yet.

"We need all our asylum capacity for those who really need our help," said Ole Schröder, secretary of state at the German interior ministry.

"I am thinking in particular of the situation in Syria, in Afghanistan. It is unacceptable that we should have two times as many asylum applicants from

Serbia as from Afghanistan," he added.

There have recent reports of a growing number of Balkans coming to Sweden on the promise of false residence permits, tricked by travel organizers who promise them that they will receive asylum on arrival in Sweden.

According to Sweden's Migration Board (Migrationsverket), asylum seekers often belong to minority groups that have had a tough life but who have no right to Swedish asylum according to Swedish laws.

AFP/The Local/TT

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