"When We Learned What Was Expecting Us"

01 February 2006

Mr. D.B., 28 and his brother Mr. M.B., 23, are Romani men born in Kosovo. The ERRC interviewed them on July 14, 2005, in the refugee camp in Bicske, Hungary, where they arrived in October 2004 and filed asylum applications. Below, Mr. D.B. recounts the details of their flight from Kosovo and their attempts to find refuge in several countries of Europe. On September 13, 2005 their application for asylum was rejected by the Hungarian Ministry of Interior's Office of Immigration and Nationality. Shortly afterwards, they left Hungary.

We lived in Pec/Peje, Kosovo until 1991. My father was working in Belgrade. When the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina started in 1991, my father was under pressure to join the Serbian army. He did not want to do that and decided that the whole family should leave Kosovo. We left on March 5, 1991 and went first to Germany. My father's cousin took us by car and we entered Germany legally with passports, because in 1991 we didn't need visas for Germany. When we arrived in Germany, we went to my father's family in Bremen, and they told us that on the following day we had to go to the immigration office and ask for asylum. The next day we went to the immigration office; there we were photographed and our fingerprints taken; they gave us a document, which certified that we were seeking asylum. Also, they gave us clothing, food and a place to stay. Six months later we received a letter from the immigration office stating that we had to leave Bremen and go to Eisenhütenstadt, where we were scheduled for interviews. In Eisenhütenstadt we spent 15 days in the refugee camp -- after 15 days they gave us a flat, which was in the town Wittenberge. In Wittenberge, we were enrolled in a German language school. After one and half years we were relocated to Perleberg, which is 10km from Wittenberge. We lived in Perleberg until March 18, 2004.

On March 18, 2004 we received a letter informing us that our asylum application had been rejected. The letter also stated that on the following day we should get ready to be returned to Serbia. My father had worked in Belgrade and was temporarily registered there. When we visited him in Belgrade prior to leaving Kosovo in 1991, we had to register our residence with the Belgrade police. As a result we were officially registered as living in Serbia. This provided an argument for the immigration authorities in several countries to claim that we came from Serbia, not from Kosovo, and that we should be returned to Serbia.

On the same day, March 18, 2004, my father and my mother went to see their doctor and informed the doctor that we had received rejection letters. The doctor, who was aware that my parents' health condition was not good, managed to stop the deportation. On March 18 myself and my brother left Perleberg and went to stay with our uncle in Frankfurt am Mein. We consulted our lawyer on how to stop our deportation, but he explained that nothing could be done because our application was rejected by the last instance – the Supreme Court.

From Frankfurt we went to Bremen, where we had another uncle. We stayed there for six months and after that we moved back to Frankfurt am Mein where my other uncle was waiting for us. He drove us to France.

When we arrived in France, we met some refugees from Kosovo and Serbia, who told us that the conditions for asylum-seekers were so poor that during the asylum process we would have to live in the streets, or if we had money we could rent a place. Since we did not have any money, we decided to move on to Italy. When we reached Milan, my uncle who brought us there, had some friends and we went to ask them about the conditions and the asylum process. My uncle's friend told us that the conditions were bad and if the police found out that we had been in Germany they would put us in prison and deport us back to Germany. They told us that only Romanian Roma had a chance to be recognised as refugees. We spent two days in Milan.

My uncle's friend told us that we should try to go to Switzerland because that country is not in the EU and they have collective centres where they accommodate refugees during the asylum process. My uncle's friend then drove us to the border and showed us which way to go, so we managed to walk across the border illegally.

The first town we came across was Chiaso and we stopped to telephone our aunt, who lived in Lugano, 20km from the place where we were. My aunt came and picked us up within an hour and took us to her place. We spent three days there because while we were crossing the border, I hurt my feet. My aunt then took us to the Valorbe refugee camp, where we filed requests for asylum. We were kept in the camp for five days and then sent to the Alstäten camp due to the large number of refugees in the Valorbe camp.

We gave our first interview after 25 days in this camp and after that the Ministry for Refugees provided us with a flat paid for by the Ministry. However, after about a month, our asylum requests were rejected and we were told that we would be deported to Serbia.

Facing this threat, we decided to leave Switzerland and try our chances in Austria. We bought train tickets, got on a train and reached the Swiss-Austrian border. We then asked around for the first town and took a bus to Feldkirchen. We were extremely lucky because there was no border check at the time we crossed and after that we entered Austria without problems.

After reaching Feldkirchen, we took the first train to Vienna, where we arrived at around eleven o'clock at night. That night we slept in a hotel because we were exhausted. Next morning, we went back to the train station and asked a taxi driver whether he knew a refugee camp. He told us that the closest one was in Traiskirchen. So we took the tram and arrived at the camp. Once there, we asked for asylum and the police accepted us. After three days, we were interviewed. We explained our problems and difficulties we faced while in all the countries where we tried to seek asylum.

We were told that they would contact Germany and if German authorities requested for us to be returned there, we would be deported or kept in jail for some time and then sent back to Germany.

When we learned what was awaiting us, we got scared and decided to leave Austria like we did previously Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. We decided to try our last hope -- Hungary.

On October 31, 2004, at around seven in the evening, we took a train to Sopron. When the train reached Sopron, we got out from the other exits (not the ones which lead to the station) and kept on walking through fields and hills until we entered Sopron.

We stayed in a hotel that night, and the next morning took a bus to Budapest. We arrived at around nine in the evening. As we had in Vienna, we asked a taxi driver about the refugee camp and were directed to the Bicske camp. After we arrived at the train station in Bicske, we asked some persons about the camp and walked there. When we arrived, the security guard asked us what we wanted, and we responded that were there to request asylum. The next morning we were taken to the police station where they took our pictures and told us when we would be scheduled for interviews. We have been here already nine months waiting a response from the Hungarian authorities to our asylum request.

We have no family members in Kosovo. All of us left in 1999, when they fled to different countries throughout Europe because of the ethnic cleansing. We all used to live in Peja/Pec. Last year, my cousin was there and told us that our house was destroyed and we had nothing to go back to anymore. Our life in Kosovo has been wiped out forever.


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