Germany Forcibly Expels Kosovo Romani Refugees

21 July 2005

According to a report issued by the BBC, Germany forcibly expelled approximately thirty persons from the Ashkali community to Kosovo on May, 21, 2005; German authorities reportedly intend to repatriate up to 10,000 Kosovo refugees. Following the signing in April of the "Agreed Note" by representatives of the German government and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Germany intends to forcibly expel members of Egyptian and Ashkali communities as well as criminal offenders from the Romani community to Kosovo. The Agreement states that:

3. In light of the fact that members of Ashkali and Egyptian communities are presently not considered to be in general need of international protection, UNMIK and the German side agree that, starting in May, Germany will propose up to 300 members of the Ashkali and Egyptian communities from Kosovo per month for forced return […]

6. In view of the expected improvements of the situation of Roma in Kosovo, UNMIK agrees to the possibility of allowing the return of criminal offenders of the Roma community who have been sentenced to imprisonment for at least 2 years and who are not in need of protection

On April 8, 2005 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued its new position paper regarding the "Continued International Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo". With regards to Kosovo Serb and Romani communities the UNHCR "maintains and reiterates its position that members of should continue to benefit from international protection in countries of asylum …[f]or these groups and individuals return should only take place on a strictly voluntary basis in safety and dignity in a coordinated and gradual manner." The paper additionally noted that:

…the security environment in Kosovo remains highly fragile and volatile. Minorities continue to suffer ethnically motivated incidents in which minority transports are stoned; members of minorities attacked, harassed or intimidated; property and possessions of minorities looted, destroyed or illegally occupied; grave sites of minorities vandalized; and hate graffiti painted on municipal buildings. Many of these incidents remain unreported as the victims fear reprisals from the perpetrators from the majority community.

However, with regard to Ashkaelia, Egyptian, Bosniak and Gorani communities, UNHCR has changed its position slightly, noting that members of these groups are apparently better tolerated in general, although they may still be targeted on an individual basis. UNHCR thus no longer advocates that no members of these groups should be sent back under any circumstances although they may have individual valid claims.

The Kosovo Ombudsperson raised numerous concerns in his letter dated March 4, 2005, to the Ministers of the Interior of Italy and Germany, and the Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy of Sweden, regarding the forcible expulsion of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians to Kosovo stating:

[…] I strongly advise you to reconsider such a plan. Most Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians live in very miserable conditions here and the high unemployment in Kosovo affects members of ethnic minorities even more than members of the Albanian majority. Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians have a very limited access to public services and justice and thus their opportunities for a normal life and a sustainable livelihood are extremely restricted.

The full text of the Kosovo Ombudsperson can be found online at http://www.ombudspersonkosovo.org.

Assessments concluding that forcible returns of Roma to Kosovo or to the rest of Serbia and Montenegro have been strongly contested by the European Roma Rights Centre. Summary conclusions of recent field research on the situation of Roma in Kosovo are included in this issue of "Snapshots from Around Europe", below under "Kosovo". The situation of Roma in Kosovo is also the subject of a forthcoming issue of Roma Rights. Assessments of possibilities of forced return to Serbia and Montenegro are available from the ERRC office by contacting: office@errc.org.

(BBC, ERRC)

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