Romanian Authorities Stop Roma from Leaving the Country

07 November 2002

Following intervention of French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and in the context of an outbreak of inflammatory reports in the French media in July and August 2002, Romanian border authorities refused to allow a number of Roma to leave Romania in late August 2002, violating their fundamental right to leave any country, including their own. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty of August 28, 2002, on August 27, 2002, approximately two hundred Roma protested at the Arad train station, in eastern Romania near the Hungarian border, after Romanian border guards denied them the right to leave Romania on August 24, 2002. Media reported that the Roma had tried to cross the borders at Nădlac and Vărşand. According to RFE/RL, the Roma stated that their intention had been to travel to Hungary to find work and visit family. Some of the Roma were not permitted to leave Romania because they were not in possession of the 250 euros per person required by Romanian law to travel to Hungary and others had previously had their right to leave the country rescinded, according to media reports. ERRC investigation on August 29, 2002, revealed that the Roma had come from the Covasna, Alba and Harghita Counties in Romania. A Romanian Member of Parliament informed the ERRC that, as of August 29, 2002, approximately forty Roma remained in and around the train station.

Two weeks previously, according to the electronic newsletter Divers of August 12, 2002, a special police unit with a mandate to stop emigration from Romania was set up by the Romanian government. The unit's members will reportedly take special measures to end the trafficking of Romani beggars and curb illegal immigration of Roma from Romania to Schengen states. According to Divers, the Romanian government also announced plans to amend existing legislation so beggars deported to Romania from abroad would have their passports confiscated for three years. The government of Romania had previously – in August 2001 – adopted an Emergency Ordinance criminalising the illegal crossing of a foreign frontier, and specifying a range of possible sanctions, including up to three years in prison: Article 1 of Emergency Ordinance 112 of 30.08.2001 "on sanctioning deeds committed outside the country by Romanian citizens or stateless persons with residence in Romania" states: "(1) Entering or exiting a foreign state by illegally passing its border by a Romanian citizen or a stateless person with residence in Romania shall be a crime and shall be punished by terms in prison between 3 and 24 months; (2) If the deed provided in paragraph (1) was committed in order to avoid the carrying out of a punishment, the punishment shall be a term in prison between 6 and 36 months; (3) The attempt shall be punished" (unofficial translation by the Romanian Helsinki Committee). Article 4 of the Ordinance mandates the confiscation of "the goods and moneys having served or aimed at committing" the crime provided in Article 1 "or obtained following the commitment of such crimes, if they are owned by the offender, shall be confiscated." Article 5 of the Ordinance provides that a person convicted of the crime specified under Article "shall be denied the issuance of a passport or, as the case may be, shall be suspended the right to use it for 5 years." The Ordinance is in direct contravention of international law: Article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own."

(Cotidianul, Divers, ERRC, Népszabadság, RFE/RL, Romanian Helsinki Committee)


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