Britain will today support a demand from six European Union countries for visas to be re-introduced for people travelling from the Balkans after new free movement rules led to a massive surge in asylum claims.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
11:51AM BST 25 Oct 2012
This year, illegal immigration into Britain has worsened after over 14,000 people from Serbia and Macedonia have requested asylum within the EU's passport-free Schengen zone,
"Britain has felt the impact and supports action," said a British official.
Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and the Netherlands will use a meeting of European interior ministers today to demand that the EU stop the tide.
Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, warned that the influx from the Balkans was threatening to overwhelm the asylum system within the EU.
"Our countries have been subject to a worrisome trend: a flood of asylum seekers from countries which have recently benefited from an easing of visa rules," he told Le Figaro newspaper.
Their nationals can move in the Schengen zone freely. This rush of asylum demands, often groundless, is threatening our system."
Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia were granted visa-free status by the EU in 2009 and 2010 allowing their citizens to travel without papers in the passport-free Schengen zone. The concession was introduced as a step towards eventual EU membership.
Mr Valls has complained that domestic laws forced France and Germany to house and feed the asylum seekers ﾓeven though it's almost sure that their demand will be rejected.
"This problem should be met with a European response," he said.
Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister said that the EU "could offer Serbia and Macedonia adequate aid" but if the trend continued then visas would be re-introduced.
"That's our message to Serbia and Macedonia. We are asking these two countries to resolve the problem," he said. "The huge inflow of Serbian and Macedonian citizens must be stopped immediately."
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