Faced with an influx of refugees from Kosovo, Germany has initiated a fast-track procedure to speed up asylum claims - and deportation. Will that deter those seeking to flee poverty and hopelessness?
Over the last few months the economic crisis has triggered a mass exodus of tens of thousands of impoverished ethnic Albanians. Ignoring their prime minister's deperate plea that the future of their country would be brighter if they stayed, some 20,000 people have left Kosovo so far this year, many of them heading to Germany in search of a better life. But here, poverty and a lack of opportunities don't qualify a person for political asylum - and so more than 99 percent of all claims filed by Kosovars have been denied, leading to mass deportations. To deal with the influx of asylum seekers from one of Europe's poorest countries, Germany this week introduced fast-track procedures, following a decision by its federal interior ministers: As of Wednesday, any asylum claim filed by a refugee from Kosovo will be processed within two weeks - down from an average of four months, according to a spokeswoman for Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). This follows similar procedures introduced for refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. However, this does not mean that those whose claims have been rejected are automatically deported, as they can appeal the decision within a week - and court cases can drag on for weeks, even months, the BAMF's spokeswoman concedes. According to figures quoted by Bild newspaper, Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees forecasts an increase in refugees seeking asylum in Germany this year, predicting a fifty-percent rise in 2015, reaching some 250,000 cases - that would constitute the highest number since 1994. Nevertheless, it's likely that many of them will continue to be Kosovars.