Ivo Kotevski: Macedonia registers double increase in number of illegal immigrants in 201325 November 2013 | 12:55 | FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Does Macedonia face any problems connected with illegal immigrants and is there an increase of the migrants flow over the past year?
Ivo Kotevski: Unfortunately Macedonia is not isolated from the problem faced by the countries in the region and the West European countries, especially after the start of the Arab Spring and the conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.
After the start of the Arab Spring Macedonia is facing an increasing inflow of illegal immigrants and other problems of this kind.
According to the statistical data, the number of the illegal immigrants in the first months of 2013 is almost twice higher compared with the figures for the same time period in 2012.
What is characteristic about the statistics is that there is biggest increase of illegal migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ivory Coast, Somalia, and others.
FOCUS: Does Macedonia have specialised centres for sheltering the illegal immigrants and the refugees?
Ivo Kotevski: Macedonia has signed all international agreements concerning the settlement of people with special status: illegal immigrants, refugees and so on.
We do our best and observe the regulations in these agreements and we provide cooperation within their parameters.
Macedonia has also signed agreements on the return of immigrants and the rights of these people are observed.
The refugee centres in Macedonia are under the authorities of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Ministry of Interior.
FOCUS: Do you think there are any risks of entrance of terrorists presenting themselves as refugees or migrants in Macedonia?
Ivo Kotevski: We cannot exclude this possibility. So far there is no information about higher risk on the territory of Macedonia.
FOCUS: Are there any xenophobic feelings in the country in connection with the immigrants?
Ivo Kotevski: I cannot judge since there are no such studies and surveys so far and now we can discuss the issue only subjectively.
Generally speaking, there is no increase of xenophobia in the country. I think there is no such thing in Macedonia at all and there have never incidents of this kind. However, unfortunately, there are incidents of criminal and material character because of the channels that pass through Macedonia and which are used for the smuggling of illegal immigrants heading towards the EU. But these are classic criminal incidents.
There are cases in which illegal immigrants passing through Macedonia to Serbia are attacked but these attacks are not connected with xenophobic feelings but for the purpose of robbery – they are of material character.
FOCUS: Are the immigrants given shelter and for how long?
Ivo Kotevski: Speaking of the provision of shelter, Macedonia has signed all international agreements and the country is observing them. We observe the rights of every illegal immigrant and we examine all applications for shelter or status. Indeed, there is increase in the requests for shelter over the past few years.
Macedonian authorities do their best to respond the applications following all the set procedures but what is characteristic about them is that most of them are for freedom of movement. If we catch an illegal immigrant, we launch a procedure for their return to the country they came entered into Macedonia from and are sent to the centre for foreigners. There is no freedom of movement there. But if there is a request for shelter, then the migrant is sheltered at a refugee centre, where the person stays for few days – there is no restriction of the movement and one does not wait for the finalisation of the procedure. Since these people are not restricted in movement they find a way to leave Macedonia, which is not the final destination but only a transit country. The final destination is in the EU. Thus, Macedonia is not the end goal but rather a temporary solution.
FOCUS: How much time does it take to obtain a refugee status?
Ivo Kotevski: It depends. There are different stages. Anyway, I will stress on this again – these requests are not connected with people’s wish to be sheltered and stay in Macedonia.
FOCUS: Are there channels for smuggling of immigrants and how many of them has the Macedonian Interior Ministry busted?
Ivo Kotevski: Of course, there are. Macedonia is part of the so-called Balkan route. There are different ways. The people, who are involved in this type of crime and help the illegal immigrants cross the borders, use different ways. They are constantly changing their routes and way of work.
Speaking of the crime rate, in January-September some 79 people were pressed charges for 38 different cases. Some 314 people were busted, most of whom from Afghanistan – 61, Pakistan – 38, and Syria – 28.
FOCUS: Which part of the border do the illegal immigrants enter into Macedonia from?
Ivo Kotevski: There are different tendencies, which are changing over the time but speaking of the immigrants from North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are mostly coming from the south border, from Greece.
There is also a regular figure of the immigrants coming from the other two borders. For instance, the western border with Albania – there are people, who are seasonal immigrants and go to work illegally at the plantations in North Greece. But in this case we have another kind of migration. The flow from Greece has been increasing over the past few years, especially after the start of the Arab Spring.
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