10 April 1997

...And on March 21 the Berlin Interior Ministry responded that they did not see any possibility to meet with the ERRC, but that they wished us a pleasant and successful stay in their city. Then, one beautiful day in Berlin, when the trees were blooming and the birds singing, having spoken with many of those Romani refugees from Bosnia waiting to be deported, I realised that their fear was different. Like all other Bosnians, they were doomed to go back and find their houses demolished, burned, looted, or occupied; but unlike the others, they were going back to a homeland whose new statehood is currently being constructed on the basis of ethnic values and ethnic institutions. In all likelihood, they would be unrepresented and utterly abandoned in somebody else's Bosnia. One of these days, they will say farewell to Berlin. They had spent five years in exile and, as if this wasn't enough punishment, were now heading toward another chapter of their uprooted existence.

One beautiful day in Berlin, I knew that neither domestic nor international law could help these people. Nor the hundreds of thousands of forced migrants all over the world. A new right should be articulated, recognised and enshrined in law: the right not to return home. It should be enjoyed by those who have fled their country due to immediate danger to their life and security of person, and who have been kept away from home for a considerable period of time by that or other similar danger. Other factors notwithstanding. The 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees, the backbone of international refugee law, does not reflect the new reality of this decade. If law is not to be the prison and then the death of the moral intention, it has to be unlocked and thrown open. The moral spirit will fly to its new embodiment, according to a higher humanitarian standard.

Dimitrina Petrova


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


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