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Fleeing Kosovo: over the border and back again

Fleeing Kosovo: over the border and back again
By Euronews with Reporting in Kosovo, Serbia and Hungary by Sandor Zsiros
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Planes carrying Kosovars, who had illegally migrated to Germany, have begun landing at Pristina airport. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people left

Planes carrying Kosovars, who had illegally migrated to Germany, have begun landing at Pristina airport.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people left Kosovo between December 2014 and February this year. Then the deportations from Germany began.

Gafurr Kabashi had been living in Ingolstadt for more than a year and a half, together with his wife and children.

But then his asylum request was rejected. He and his family were flown to Pristina on 17 March.

“I was in Germany for one year and eight months. They were good to us. The conditions were good. But the moment came and they sent us back,” he said.

He would like to go back to Germany, but now lives in his father’s house in a village around 60 kilometres from Pristina.

Twelve people in total live there – only one of whom is employed.

Kabashi and his wife spent 1,700 euros getting to Germany.That included 300 euros for a human trafficker, who helped them cross the border from Serbia into Hungary on foot.

There, they were detained by police and spent several days in a refugee camp.

“Life was very hard in that Hungarian camp. We had to leave because people there were beating each other. There were cases of people being killed there, “ Kabashi said.

Back on home soil the family may be safer, but Kabashi believes he has little hope of making a living in Kosovo.

“The future? Catastrophic,” Kabashi said. “No money, no wages, no work. And the children want to eat.”

The Pestova potato and crisp company is one of Kosovo’s most successful firms and employs around 150 people.

Pestova manager, Bedri Kosumi, said: “From our company there were eight workers who left, but two of them came back. I think that there were many reasons for this migration, but the main reason is that they were manipulated by people who told them there was a paradise in the West.”

Kosovo’s struggling economy – coupled with unrealistic visions of life in the EU – have contributed to the wave of migration, according to journalist Avni Ahmetaj.

“I spoke with a lot of the people who were leaving Kosovo and what they told me is that they are looking for a better life. But they have no idea how to achieve this better life in the European Union. Because they have never been there. We have been kept here, isolated from the rest of Europe,” Ahmetaj said.

“Therefore among Kosovars, (the) Schengen area or Schengen regime is looked upon as something that blocks them from entering into European Union countries. And that is really sad,” he continued.

The Serbian border town of Subotica is only around 10 kilometres from the EU border.

Migrants arrive in the town from Kosovo and also from further afield – Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq.

Naji Hajji Issa is a Yasidi, who fled ISIL violence in Iraq. He spent two days hiding out in a forest in Bulgaria with no water or food on his way to Serbia.

“There were police checkpoints,” Issa said. “We could not move, but when the police lifted their barriers, I continued on my way and after two days I found myself in Serbia.

“We came to this building and tonight we will go to the Hungary, then to Austria and on to Germany,” he continued.

Helping illegal migrants is against the law in Serbia. But aid worker Tibor Varga takes the risk and visits Subotica to bring food, water and sometimes medical assistance.

Varga said: “Those who cross the border in an organised way usually do not come here. Usually the people who stay here, or come here, do not have money or connections.”

Just a few kilometres from the Subotice camp, a tiny river marks the European Union’s external border.

Fresh footprints showed the paths taken by people desperate to enter Hungary – and the EU.

Throughout February, hundreds of people tried to cross here every day. A record 1,700 people were detained by police on one day alone.

“There were days when they came in large numbers. At that time the police were already waiting for them. They were in groups, 35-70 people usually,” said local farmer, Imre Koromi.

Under EU regulations, migrants can move freely inside the country of arrival once they request asylum there.

Hungarian police colonel Gizella Vas explained: “These people, after being detained, usually say they want to file for asylum in Hungary.”

“After that we need to hand them over to the Immigration Office. After that the migrants can move freely inside the country. Many of them use this to travel to Western Europe via the inner (Schengen) borders,” Vas added.

Hungary and Germany are looking at stricter regulations for asylum seekers – but any changes to legislation have to be agreed at EU level.

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