World Bulletin/News Desk
Germany's interior minister called on Friday for the suspension of visa-free travel for Serbs and Macedonians to the European Union following a surge in asylum applications from citizens of the two Balkan countries.
Serbs and Macedonians accounted for nearly a third of all applications for political asylum in Germany last month, official data showed, though both former Yugoslav republics are candidates to join the European Union and are thus required to uphold its values and freedoms.
Illegal immigration and asylum are likely to prove sensitive issues for German politicians in the countdown to federal elections next autumn.
"The increasing abuse of the asylum system is not acceptable ... The huge inflow of Serbian and Macedonian citizens must be stopped immediately," Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in a statement.
The top-selling Bild daily quoted Friedrich as saying: "Visa-free travel must not lead to abuse of the asylum rules. This will strain the readiness of Germans to help the truly needy and persecuted."
The number of Serb asylum applicants in Germany rose threefold in September from the previous month while Macedonian requests jumped 70 percent, the data showed.
Visitors from Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro won the right to visa-free travel in the European Union's border-free Schengen zone in 2009. Citizens of Bosnia and Albania followed suit in 2010.
Late last year the European Union agreed new rules to make it easier to restore visa requirements, to counter fears of a sudden influx of migrants from the western Balkans.
But the bloc's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have still to approve those rules, which envisage a temporary suspension of visa-free arrangements for countries whose citizens are deemed to be abusing the system.
"It may take up to six more months to get a final agreement," an EU official in Brussels told Reuters.
This week, a lawmaker from Germany's main opposition Social Democrats, Michael Hartmann, urged the authorities to reject bogus asylum applications more swiftly and to focus resources on genuine cases from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.
Germany receives about 144,000 requests for political asylum per year, down from a peak of 500,000 in 1996, Hartmann said. Germany took in large numbers of refugees from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Thousands of people including Ak Party deputies took to the streets in Erzurum province.
Tens of thousands marched in Madrid on Saturday in the biggest show of support yet for anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Greece's new Syriza rulers.
The attacks were claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a movement that has changed its name to "Welayet Sinai" (the State of Sinai) in 2014 after it swore allegiance to the ISIS.
Three other Palestinians were detained in Israeli raids in Hebron and Aroub refugee camp in the south
Prime minister's speech may have been catalyst to hostage crisis, media suggests
The victim identified as Ahmed al-Naggar, he was 18 years old.
Peshmerga forces battling ISIL in Iraq reportedly take back the lost fields in southern Kirkuk and an oil well Saturday
Report: Japan trying to authenticate video that appears to show militant beheading journalist Kenji Goto.
Source close to Hamas says no longer accepts Egypt as Israel mediator
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that the country faces a long, hard battle against militancy, days after one of the bloodiest attacks on security forces in years.
Historic handwritten documents and archived texts burned as firefighters battled to save the library. 10 million books were saved.
Podemos was formed just a year ago by university professor Pablo Iglesias, but produced a major shock by winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament in May.
Hadi made his statement during a meeting with general secretaries of several Yemeni political parties.
The shelling created panic among residents with many presuming that Boko Haram was making attempts to storm into the city.
The passports of the 72 nationals were revoked after Bahrain's cabinet had approved the move to protect Bahrain's security and stability and fight "terrorist threats."