ERRC Letter to the Chief Administrative Judge of Berlin
14 November 1997
Honourable Chief Judge,
The European Roma Rights Center, an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is concerned about judicial developments concerning Bosnian Roma in Berlin.
Reuters reported on November 10 that a Berlin administrative court has authorised the deportation from Germany of three Bosnian Roma, even though a systematic campaign of "ethnic cleansing" during the Bosnian war has rendered uninhabitable their native region -- the Bosnian entity known as Republika Srpska (RS). In its ruling, the court acknowledged that the Roma could not return to the RS. Nonetheless, according to press accounts, the court reasoned that the refugees could successfully return to the other Bosnian entity -- the Muslim-Croat Federation -- without what it termed "danger to life or limb."
The ERRC is concerned that government officials in Berlin will use this ruling as a pretext for accelerating deportations of Bosnian Roma refugees. There are presently approximately 25,000 de facto refugees from Bosnia in Berlin. An estimated 6000-10,000 of these are Roma and possibly as many as 5000 of these come from the town of Bijelina, presently located in Republika Srpska. As of the end of June, 41 Bosnians had been deported from Berlin, while another 5053 had returned "voluntarily". While many of these so-called "voluntary" returns took place under pressure of deportation, the ERRC believes that the high number of people who have left the relative security of Berlin for an unknown future in Bosnia indicates that those who feel capable of leaving with a reasonable amount of security have already done so.
Given the precarious conditions prevailing in Bosnia at present, all deportations should be halted. In order to permit the three Bosnian Roma in this case to appeal the decision of the administrative tribunal, we call upon your office to stay their deportation until all appropriate judicial bodies have had a full opportunity to review and correct the erroneous decision of the administrative tribunal in this case.