The European Burden of Kosovo’s 2015 ExodusMarch 6, 2015 in Kosovo
Seven years after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, faced with failed European Union visa arrangements, high unemployment rates, and low job security, an estimated 100,000 of Kosovo’s citizens have made the choice to illegally migrate towards Western Europe. Furthermore, Kosovo’s political situation is another push factor spurring the illegal migration. Many of Kosovo’s citizens are not just frustrated by the country’s economic woes, but also the political turbulence and corruption facing Kosovo’s future. Last month Kosovo saw the most significant civilian and political unrest, followed by mass protests, since it’s declaration of independence in 2008. The political crisis coupled with economic instability has meant many of Kosovo’s citizens are willing to make the illegal journey westward where they hope to find jobs and better living conditions for their families.
The mass illegal migration of Kosovo’s citizens seeking asylum in the EU block during the past three months has now become a foreign policy problem, as EU countries struggle to deal with the burden of illegal migrants infiltrating their borders. In so far as to say, mass exodus of Kosovo’s citizens has created a growing problem for many countries in the EU, in particular, the highly sought recipient countries of Germany, France, and Austria. However, Serbia and Hungry, which are the predominant transit countries for the illegal migration, have been hit with an alarming notion of just how porous their borders are, as migrants from Kosovo seep through westwards onto EU’s borderless Schengen area.
The exodus follows a relaxation of travel regulations in Serbia in 2012, which were encouraged by the EU, as a part of Serbia’s path to EU accession. Since 2012, Serbia has allowed people to enter its borders with Kosovo-issued documents. Once in Serbia, Kosovo’s migrants legally make their way to the popular border crossing of Subotica, where they then illegally cross the Serbian-Hungarian border into Hungary. Hungary has since seen a startling rise in asylum seekers from Kosovo, with 10,000 people filing for asylum in Hungary in February alone, compared to 6,000 for the whole of 2013. However, whilst Hungary is the preferred transit-state westwards, it is not the preferred destination. According to Hungary’s Office of Immigration and Nationality, which deals with administrative duties related to asylum, citizenship, and aliens policing issues, an estimated 40-50% of asylum applicants normally leave the country within 24 hours, and a further 30-40% within 3-10 days.
The flow of illegal migrants from Kosovo has proven to be a lucrative operation for people smugglers, as they exploit the easily infiltrated border at Subotica. Admittedly, those from Kosovo make up the most substantial numbers of illegal migrants crossing the border, but as the most favorable passage for people smugglers; Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis, among other nationalities, are also being smuggled through the border. In an effort to quell the startling number of illegal immigrants entering the EU, in particular the most favored destination of Germany, Hungarian authorities permanently patrol the frontier region. However, it would seem such measures are not enough. From February, German police, equipped with vehicles operating thermal vision cameras, have started to aid Serbia and Hungary in border patrols. Whilst the extent to which increased border patrols and tightened security will affect the flow of illegal migrants is yet to be seen, the alarming number of Kosovo’s citizens traveling westwards in search of a better life does not show any signs of abating.