Forty percent of illegal immigrants in the key EU countries in recent months came from Kosovo. As Grace Pascoe reports unemployment is one of the reasons for the mass exodus.
Egzon Bytyci is 18 and from Kosovo. But until a few weeks ago he was planning to leave his home with his parents and his four siblings. The plan - to scale a fence or wade through water on the Serbian-Hungarian border before travelling to Germany to seek asylum. That was until luck came their way. (SOUNDBITE) (Albanian) CONSTRUCTION WORKER, EGZON BYTYCI, SAYING: "Two weeks ago we took a decision to leave for Germany, but thanks to Mr. Njazi, who employed me and my brother in his company Eurometal, my father decided not to take that treacherous road. We decided to work in Kosovo instead." It's seven years since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. And in the last 4 months of 2014 the number of Kosovan's seeking asylum in the EU rocketed from a few hundred to 21,000. Political unrest following an election last June, poverty and unemployment are largely to blame. Kosovan's made up 40 percent of illegal entries into Europe's passport-free Schengen zone in December. Egzon's father Xhevat says the government offers no support. (SOUNDBITE) (Albanian) EGZON BYTYCI'S FATHER, FARMER XHEVAT BYTYCI, SAYING: "Here you don't feel you are an equal citizen - I should be treated the same as the president and the other big figures who have salaries of 3000-4000 euros. They should decrease their earnings and help us a little. But the biggest problem is unemployment,- if there were jobs no one would leave." 53% of Kosovo's population are under 25, the youngest in Europe. Egzon's new boss at Eurometal Njazi Musliu thinks there are opportunities to be had. (SOUNDBITE) (Albanian) OWNER OF "EUROMETAL" FACTORY, NJAZI MUSLIU, SAYING : "We should make it possible for foreign companies to come and invest in Kosovo as labour is cheap here compared to western countries." Many of those who do reach other EU countries end up coming back after being refused asylum. But without change in Kosovo there are likely to be plenty more willing to risk all for the chance of a new life.