World Bulletin/News Desk
Germany will be less likely to grant political asylum to people from the Western Balkans after its upper house of parliament on Friday agreed to upgrade Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia to "safe" countries where basic human rights are guaranteed.
Arguing that 99 percent of requests from these countries are already rejected for lack of evidence of the risk of torture or inhumane treatment, Berlin has moved to tackle public concern at a rise in asylum applications which hit a 14-year high in 2013.
Germany now has the largest number of asylum-seekers in the European Union and net immigration is at its highest levels in two decades. Local governments complain that they don't have the facilities or funds to cope with the influx of people.
Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia are among the 10 main countries of origin of people seeking asylum in Germany. The lower house approved the change in their status in July and the new rules now only need President Joachim Gauck's signature to become law.
Government lawmakers argue that this will mean applications from other countries can be processed more quickly.
"This means we can integrate people faster into society and make them independent from welfare," said Eva Hoegl, a member of parliament from the Social Democrats (SPD), who share power with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.
But the opposition Left urged Gauck not to sign the law, saying that what Germany needed was to scrap an employment ban on asylum seekers and give them increased access to welfare.Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2014, 16:59