After Greece, Illegal Immigrants Flocked to Macedonia

Illegal immigrants spoted in the village of Lojane, close to Skopje.
Photo: Utrinski Vesnik
Illegal migration is increasing each year and represents a serious concern for the country, while the number of illegal immigrants entering through Bulgaria is multiplying, warns the Ministry of Interior. According to the Ministry’s 2013 Integrated Border Management Report, more than 1,200 migrants were detected in the country, which is a 66% increase compared to 2012, daily Dnevnik reports.

"Despite implementing a huge number of coordinated operations for eradication of this problem, we still need joint approach, regional response and feedback especially from the countries of origin of the illegal immigrants. Additional difficulty is that the cooperation with Greece, the entering point to Macedonia for a great number of illegal immigrants, is not at the desired level, therefore, our services have to invest further efforts to reach the set goals and results," says the Ministry's Spokesperson.

According to the statistics, the vast number of illegal immigrants comes from Albania – 400, who have stayed in Macedonia mainly because of financial reasons and worked mostly during the construction or agricultural season. However, that number is declining, thus Albanian migrants in 2012 were almost half of the total number of migrants, while, last year, 35% of the migrants were Albanians. On the other hand, the number of illegal migrants coming from the Near and the Middle East, as well as from North Africa, is increasing, therefore, migrants from these regions comprise 58.6% of the total number of illegal migrants, or over 12% more than in 2012.

"There is a new trend this period, illegal migrants coming from Syria, which was not the case in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Macedonian services detected 116 Syrian citizens. Otherwise, the biggest number of illegal crossings were registered at the border with Greece – 551, and in 2012, there were only 166 crossings at that border. Another feature of the new trend is the increase in number of illegal attempts to cross the country from Bulgaria – 134, compared to only 4 in 2012.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the number of illegal border crossings from Macedonia to Kosovo and Serbia has decreased, and there is a slight increase of illegal migrants crossing to Albania. The migrants that managed to enter Macedonia were detected by the police in the interior of the country, which was the case in the past years – 546. In 2012, 431 migrants were detected in the country's interior, and 442 people were detected entering the country, which is a multiple increase in terms of the 140 detected in 2012. Only 144 persons were detected attempting to exit the country.

Because of illegal entry in Macedonia, 131 persons were not granted entry by the border services of the neighboring countries, or 21 person less compared to 2012; and 574 foreign citizens were not admitted by the Macedonian border services, which is an increase in terms of the 376 deported persons a year before.

"In a vast number of cases when illegal immigrants are detected, there is a typical abuse of international protection mechanism. We also face difficulties in determining the identity and the origin of the migrants, their accommodation and the insufficient number of court interpreters is a problem, too. Special problem is the significant financial implications during their stay here, as well as the existing difficulties when we try to send them back to their countries of origin," says the Ministry's Spokesperson.

The Detention Center for Foreigners, accommodated 573 persons last year, which is 24,5% more than 2012.

Foreigners are increasingly arrested on criminal charges.

According to the Ministry of Interior, last year an increase was registered related to the detected and fined foreign citizens who have committed illegal acts during their stay in the country. The police has filed 208 criminal charges against 354 foreign citizens for 242 different criminal acts. Most of these foreign citizens are Albanians. In the bulk of cases, people are charged for grand larceny, robberies and for forging documents.

There are 119 false asylum seekers in the country.

The Ministry of Interior last year banned exit out of the country to 6,475 Macedonian citizens or 41% more than 2012. They were refused because of lack of valid guarantee letters, insufficient finances, or based on the doubt that they might be potential asylum seekers in the western European countries. 63% of the total number of persons disallowed to leave the country were returned at the border crossing point "Tabanovce". The returned persons are most often citizens of Skopje – 2,465, and Kumanovo – 1,034. The police has filed criminal charges against 19 persons for committed 13 criminal acts, including abuse of the visa-free regime with the EU member-states and the Schengen Agreement. 

Last year, the Macedonian police refused the entrance at the border crossings to 2,905 foreign citizens on different bases, which is a decrease compared to 2012, when the border crossings remained closed for 3,115 foreigners. The bulk of the cases is related to Albanian citizens being refused entrance in Macedonia – 853, Turkish citizens – 633, Bulgarian – 237, and others. During the same period 416 foreign citizens were not allowed to exit the country, out of which 90 were Serbian citizens, 88 Albanian, concludes the daily newspaper Dnevnik.

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