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Why everyone wants to be Syrian

AP/Hajdukovo, Serbia
Filed on September 6, 2015
Why everyone wants to be Syrian
Syrian refugees cross into Hungary underneath the border fence.

(AP)

The chief of the European Union border agency Frontex said that trafficking in fake Syrian passports has increased.

A Pakistani identity card in the bushes, a Bangladeshi one in a cornfield. A torn Iraqi driver's license bearing the photo of a man with a Saddam-style moustache, another one with a scarfed woman displaying a shy smile.

Documents scattered only metres from Serbia's border with Hungary provide evidence that many of the migrants flooding Europe to escape war or poverty are scrapping their true nationalities and likely assuming new ones, just as they enter the European Union.

Many of those travellers believe that using a fake document - or having none at all - gives them a better of chance of receiving asylum in Germany and other western European states. That's because the surest route to asylum is to be a refugee from war and not an economic migrant fleeing poverty. That fact has led to a huge influx of people claiming to be Syrian.

In pictures: Thousands of migrants and refugees arrive in Germany

Serbian border police say that 90 percent of those arriving from Macedonia, some 3,000 a day, claim they are Syrian, although they have no documents to prove it. The so-called Balkan corridor for the migrant flight starts in Turkey, then goes through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the European Union in Hungary.

"You can see that something is fishy when most of those who cross into Serbia enter January first as the date of their birth," said border police officer Miroslav Jovic. "Guess that's the first date that comes to their mind."

The chief of the European Union border agency Frontex said that trafficking in fake Syrian passports has increased.

"A lot of people enter Turkey with fake Syrian papers, because they know that they'll get asylum in the EU more easily," Fabrice Leggeri said.

Read: UN launches 'Back to School' campaign for refugee kids

In Germany, customs authorities have intercepted packages mailed to Germany containing Syrian passports, both genuine and counterfeit, the finance ministry said.

Syrians transiting through Serbia are concerned about the trend.

"Everyone says they are Syrian, even those who are obviously not," said Kamal Saleh, pointing toward a group of people camping in a Belgrade park. "That is not good for us Syrians because of limited number of people who will get the asylum."

Read: Hungary may deploy army on borders to keep out migrants

Among those who had no second thoughts about ditching their true identity was Rafik from Pakistan.

"I'm leaving my old life behind," said Rafik, who gave only his first name because he feared repercussions when applying for asylum in Germany. "I'm starting a new one."

"I don't have a passport, nor any other identity paper," he said, as he dashed under the fence into Hungary. "Let's see which country they will choose to kick me back to."


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