Germany grants refugee status to those fleeing political persecution or war.
Applications from Syrians who have found their way onto German soil, for example, are overwhelmingly accepted (more than 85 percent in the first half of the year).
But poverty or lack of opportunity are not considered grounds for asylum.
The Interior Ministry’s video may be desolate, but it’s also accurate: Those seeking asylum on economic grounds will be sent home.
“The economic situation in [the Western Balkans] is bad, so it’s understandable that people are seeking a better future somewhere else.
But that’s not a reason to grant asylum,” Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s interior minister, said in an interview with the daily newspaper last Sunday.
“We need those capacities for those who really require protection.” Regardless of the origin country, authorities review each case individually.
But Aydan Özoguz, the federal commissioner for migration, refugees and integration, says her office is straining under a backlog of about a quarter of a million applications.
That has sparked efforts to speed up processing and deportation of anyone who is considered an economic refugee. Last November, the government passed new legislation deeming Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia “safe states of origin.” It’s assumed that applicants from those countries are not in danger of political persecution if they’re sent back.
The change in classification has helped Berlin fast-track their evaluation and deportation.
BERLIN — It doesn’t get much bleaker than Germany in winter, if you believe the images.
Driving rain, a cold bagged meal, grim-faced police loading people and bags onto buses.
This is the fate facing would-be asylum seekers from across the West Balkans, according to a video produced by the German government for distribution in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.
“Please take this information very seriously,” warns a male voice, off camera.
“Too many people have already taken on the difficult and expensive journey that has ended in swift, forced deportation….
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees started seeing an increasing volume in asylum applications from the Balkans in 2012, after Germany’s highest court ruled to raise the basic benefits for asylum seekers immediately.
But the numbers have soared to a new level this year: Germany processed nearly 63,000 applications from Kosovo and Albania alone from January through July, compared to a little over 7,500 during the same period last year.
In the first six months of the year, 40 percent of all asylum applications came from Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
That influx has drawn new attention, at a time when huge numbers of people fleeing an increasingly unstable Middle East are also seeking shelter and safety in Germany.
Around 99 percent of those applying for asylum from the Balkans will be rejected.
Now there are growing calls — particularly among members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party — to extend the “safe country” status to Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro, too.
The opposition Greens and Social Democrats argue there is little proof that expanding the list of safe countries will actually stop migrants from coming.
And refugee organizations warn that this measure will set a dangerous precedent.
“There are certainly human rights violations in those countries that are relevant for asylum,” argued Marei Pelzer of the Frankfurt-based refugee organization Pro Asyl.
“Saying that you no longer look at individual cases flies in the face of refugee rights.” Individual review is still guaranteed.
Don’t ruin yourself and your family, financially and economically.” The four-minute-long clip is part of the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s ongoing campaign to stem the flow of migrants arriving in droves from the Western Balkans.
There have been Facebook posts and newspaper ads, in Albanian, Serbian, and other Balkan languages.
Germany isn’t alone: Switzerland, Denmark, and Hungary have planned similar campaigns.
But as Berlin grapples with an unprecedented influx of people escaping war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa, the question of what to do with those deemed “economic refugees” — people fleeing poverty and unemployment — has bogged down authorities and helped fan the flames of xenophobic sentiment.
Germany received nearly 220,000 asylum applications in the first six months of the year. 19, the government announced it’s expecting that number to climb to 800,000 by the end of the year — the most in the European Union, by far.
Few issues have captivated the German media and public like this one.
It’s not just the ugly outbreak of violence against asylum seekers, or the international headlines it has spawned.
The plight of refugees escaping horrors in Syria and Somalia has spurred a much larger outpouring of solidarity in recent weeks.
That has manifested in marches, donations, and large-scale volunteer efforts.