Belgrade, 2 January 2009 – Some 600 illegal immigrants from Serbia to the EU have been returned to the country in the past year, the authorities are saying. At the same time, they believe that the number of those who returned voluntarily is several times that, although Readmission Office Coordinator Zoran Panjković concedes that there is “no precise data”.

In 90 percent of the cases, he explained, families are returning, with 30 percent of all those who have come back to Serbia being children.

Most of the persons in the process of readmission arrive from Germany – some 60-70 percent – followed by those who resided in Switzerland. They are mostly without or with incomplete elementary education, while a minority has high school degrees.

67 percent of those readmitted are Romas, or Gypsies, followed by around 20 percent pof Muslims. The remainder are Serbs, Ashkalis, Egyptians, Albanians, Goranis, and others.

Panjković spoke to Beta news agency to reject claims that between 100,000 and 150,000 Serbian citizens are currently seeking asylum or staying illegally in the EU, and put the number at “several tens of thousands”.

The readmission agreement, he explained, specifies that 1,000 persons would be forcibly returned each year, and that figure will not increase.

Once they are back in the country, most former illegal immigrants stay with their families, but some, according to Panjković, who were born abroad, having spent 20-30 years there without ever receiving citizenships, “have nowhere to go”.

Once they commit misdemeanors or felonies abroad, he added, their ties to Serbia are discovered, and they are deported.

Panjković also said that families are sometimes stripped of all their money before being sent back to Serbia, where they arrive destitute.

Still, this official says that the readmission process is going smoothly.

“The problem is how to reintegrate or integrate the returnees,” he explained.

The government will seek to make progress in this area soon with a strategy aimed at better integration of the persons brought back to Serbia in the readmission process.

Source: B 92/Beta