The lifting of travel restrictions for Macedonians appears to have resulted in a sharp increase in its citizens applying for asylum in Switzerland.
Federal Migration Office statistics show that 166 people from Macedonia applied for asylum this February, almost three times more than in the whole of 2009 and nine times more than in January 2010.
Citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia have been permitted to travel freely to the Schengen zone, which includes Switzerland, without restriction since December 19, 2009.
In total 1,176 asylum requests were made in February, 2.3 per cent fewer than in January. Eritrea saw the most applications after Macedonia with 119. Nigeria came third with 89.
Overall, 405 requests were granted, which was 24 per cent of applications, and 39,494 people were reported to be in the asylum process. This is 500 fewer than in January.
swissinfo.ch and agencies