Kein Ort. Nirgends

10 April 1997

The Šarkezi family have been non-people for the past nine months. In 1991, three Roma, Rudika Šarkezi (born 1937), his wife Zofija Šarkezi (born 1944), and their grandson Vlado Nikolié (born 1982) lived in Knedzevi Vinogradi, near Beli Manastir, Eastern Slavonia. In 1992, the Šarkezi family left their home for Hungary and then continued on to Germany:

Mr. and Mrs. Šarkezi and their grandson were admitted into Germany after showing their Yugoslav passports. They stayed in Germany for four years as refugees. Then, in June 1996, the German authorities told them to leave the country. The three therefore went to the Croatian Embassy in Germany to renew their passports, which had expired. They were told to wait for six months for new passports. The German authorities, however, sent them a document indicating they should leave the country immediately.

Because of this new mandate, Mr. and Mrs. Šarkezi and their grandson attempted to leave the country without new passports. They traveled to the Austrian border, where the document demanding their departure from Germany was taken away from them. They then traveled through Austria to the Hungarian border by train, where they were stopped by the Austrian border police. The Austrian border police held them in custody for 5 days, after which they sent the three Roma to the airport in Vienna to arrange for their departure to Yugoslavia. At the airport, the Šarkezi family paid 13,000 Austrian shillings (roughly 1300 US dollars) for plane tickets to fly to Belgrade.

Upon arrival in Belgrade, the family were held for three days by Yugoslav police at the airport. The police said they could not be admitted into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) without valid passports – they were still carrying their old Yugoslav passports which indicated their prior residence in Eastern Slavonic, in what at the time was the Croatian Republic of Yugoslavia. The three flew back to Vienna, where they were handed a document instructing them to leave Austria within two weeks. They have been in Vienna ever since.

The family has gone to both the Croatian and FRY embassies in Austria to seek new passports, but have not yet received valid documents from either institution. The FRY authorities said the borders are not yet fixed and that their applications for new passports will take some time. The FRY embassy gave them a document which simply says that the three have requested passports, and that the application has been forwarded to Belgrade.

In response to their request for Croatian passports, the Croatian embassy told them to wait for a decision. To date, it has not issued official approval or denial. For the past nine months therefore, the Šarkezi family has been stateless and without work or residence permits or asylum status in Austria. Their fate is similar to countless Roma from ex-Yugoslavia who have been displaced by the war.

(ERRC, Romano Centro)

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