People from Kosovo account for the second highest number of illegal immigrants stopped at the Swiss frontier, statistics for the first three months of the year have shown.
This makes Kosovo the only European country to figure in the “top ten” of illegal immigrants’ countries.
Between January and March, border guards arrested 3,280 illegal immigrants. In all, 444 came from Gambia, with 369 coming from Kosovo, according to figures published by the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper and also seen by the Swiss news agency. Other countries of origin were Nigeria (250) and Senegal (194).
“Economic reasons and a lack of perspectives in their country of origin could explain the rise of illegal immigration from Kosovo to Switzerland,” said Attila Lardori, border guards' spokesman.
Another reason: the Swiss authorities now reject asylum requests from Kosovo in principle in less than 48 hours. “The accelerated procedure has most probably resulted in Kosovars being more likely to take the illegal route to Switzerland, and to work here,” added Lardori.
In addition, 91 people were detained on suspicion of people trafficking between January and March, of which 27 came from Kosovo.
In mid-March Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga expressed concern about continuing mass emigration from Kosovo during an official visit from Kosovan President Atifete Jahjaga.
According to the NZZ am Sonntag, tens of thousands of Kosovars have been leaving their homeland with hopes of a better life in western Europe, requesting asylum in Germany, France or Italy in particular.
Sommaruga said the increase was particularly unbeneficial for Kosovo as it needed these citizens at home to help implement reforms and drive economic growth.
The NZZ am Sonntag report said that many were coming to Switzerland with false documents and were working illegally in, for example, hotels and restaurants.
Switzerland is home to one of the largest Kosovan diaspora populations. Around 170,000 people with Kosovan origins live in Switzerland.