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Berlin: Deportations on the rise

The situation of Roma in Germany – past and present. From Duldung to deportation, the number of Balkan refugee lives affected by Germany's policies grows by the day.

Image for Berlin: Deportations on the rise
En route from Prishtina’s Adem Jashari airport to Fushë Kosovë, on Bill Clinton Boulevard, a billboard thanks Germany for its support. Photo by Alexia Skok

Most Kosovo refugees in Germany immigrated to the western and southern states (38 percent of Roma on Duldung were registered in North Rhine-Westphalia), and thousands of forced repatriations have already been taking place in cities like Münster, Stuttgart and Magdeburg. Deportations from the State of Berlin have been targeting mostly Serbian Roma. Over the past year, since Frank Henkel (CDU) took control of Berlin’s Interior Ministry, deportations to Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo have more than tripled from four in 2011 to 15 in the first 10 months of 2012.

According to Martina Mauer of the refugee support charity Flüchtlingsrat Berlin, another 15 people were deported in December 2012. Mauer says that under Henkel, wintertime deportations to Serbia – including sick people and small children – have resumed despite the humanitarian custom to suspend them. Like Kosovo Roma, Serbian Roma are subjected to harsh discrimination once returned to their former home country.

According to Bosiljka Schedlich, director of refugee support organisation Südost Europa Kultur e.V., it is extremely difficult to get official information. “All that we know is that decisions over deportation are made by the Ausländerbehörde, but no one knows how they are made, and they don’t want anyone to know. This results in the refugees living in a permanent state of fear and suspicion of the authorities.” The Ausländerbehörde declined an interview, stating that since “immigration authorities do not track the ethnic background of foreigners living here, just their citizenship”, they couldn’t give us precise answers.

What does RAE stand for?

Roma is an umbrella classification of various ethnic and social groups of Romani heritage, comprising 12 castes in Kosovo. Ashkali are predominately of Muslim faith, speak Albanian as their first language and associate ancient Persia as their ancestral home. Egyptians, also Muslim Albanian speakers, claim to trace their lineage to ancient Egypt although, as with Ashkali, linguistic and genetic evidence suggests they are of Roma origin. Originally grouped with Ashkali, Kosovo’s Balkan Egyptian community only became recognised in 1990.

From Third Reich extermination to present-day deportation: 80 years of Roma life in Germany

1933-1945 Roma and Sinti are on par with Jews when it comes to persecution. By 1945, 70-80 percent of both populations in Europe had been murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

1960s Roma are among the guest workers who move from Yugoslavia to man the factories of West Germany.

1982 37 years after the Nuremberg trials, Germany recognises Roma as victims of the Holocaust. To this day no reparations have been paid.

1980-90s Some 24,000 Roma (including 8200 Ashkali, 1800 Egyptians and 700 Serbs) flee social and economic exclusion, persecution and Balkan wars for Germany. Most settle here under a precarious ‘toleration’ status (Duldung).

2010 A Rückübernahmeabkommen (‘readmission agreemet’) is signed by Thomas de Maizière (CDU) and Bajram Rexhepi, Interior Ministers of Germany and Kosovo respectively, under which Germany pledges to return approximately 14,000 Kosovo refugees on Duldung, at the rate of up to 2500 a year. Eighty percent of these are Roma.

2012 In October, Germany finally unveils its memorial to the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust (seven years after the Jewish memorial). Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a moving speech in which she commits to support Roma populations in Europe.

2012-present Mass deportations to Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia continue; refugees of Roma ethnicity under Duldung live under the constant threat of deportation. It is expected that in total almost 12,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (including more than 5000 children, two-thirds of whom were born and raised in Germany), will be returned from Germany to Kosovo. On average, forced returnees have lived in Germany for 14 years.