Migration, Asylum and Roma Rights Policy: A 3-Part Basis for Good Governance
10 July 2002
Issues related to Romani Migration, flight and itinerancy have caused a great deal of confusion in recent years. It is the position of the ERRC that, at minimum, three distinct domains of policy exist with respect to the movement of Romani individuals in Europe.
Asylum and Refugee Protection
There are serious concerns that Roma may suffer persecution in many European states. As recently as 1999, Roma were ethnically cleansed from Kosovo by ethnic Albanians. In a number of countries, discrimination against Roma may rise to the level of persecution in many areas (or as a result of cumulative effects in more than one area), making life with dignity impossible and causing Roma to flee and seek protection in other states. At the same time, the right to asylum is under serious threat in all countries of Europe. Rates of refugee protection generally are extremely low and definitions of what constitutes a refugee in practice are extremely restrictive. Many European states appear to be taking special measures to preclude Roma in particular from having access to a substantive refugee determination procedure.
- The asylum right, currently under attack from many quarters, must be insulated in Europe. The proper basis for refugee protection is the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, taken together with its 1967 New Year protocol ("1951 Geneva Convention").
- The burden of identifying refugees resides with states. Authorities must take particular care to ensure that anti-Romani sentiment does not infect refugee determination procedures.
- There is no basis under international law for the following notions, prevalent in Europe today:
- the concept of an "asylum seeker";
- the idea that persons are required "to apply" for asylum;
- the notion that asylum "is only for people who have been involved in political activity";
- the idea that refugees must claim refugee status in the "first safe country" in which they arrive;
- the assertion that persecution may only be undertaken by state actors (and therefore that persons persecuted by racist groups such as "skinheads" are ineligible for refugee protection);
- the idea that there are "safe countries of origin" from which no person may legitimately claim to be persecuted.
- the claim that persons are ineligible for refugee protection if they have not first sought an "internal flight option", by going to another locality in their country of origin.
Use of these concepts should be discontinued forthwith, and European authorities should conduct public information campaigns to correct widespread public misunderstandings about the nature of the international system of refugee protection.
By some counts, restrictive laws and policies in Europe have indirectly caused the deaths of more than 2000 persons in Europe since 1989, including at least 12 deaths directly at the hands of state officials, during the course of expulsion procedures. In addition, there is a serious concern that, despite indications that Romani migration is a fragmentary part of overall migration, migration in Europe is increasingly viewed as "a Gypsy thing". In its most extreme form, it has even been hinted that fears of "a deluge of Romani migration" may cause delays in European Union enlargement, and may even cause some countries to be excluded from membership in the European Union. The ERRC believes that:
- Migration is a fact, in need of regulation by laws and policies based on international human rights standards.
- States which have not yet ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families should do so without delay.
- Practices which place an unreasonable or disproportionate burden on migrants – such as work visa or residence permit rules which require an individual to apply for renewals or extensions from abroad – should be discontinued forthwith.
- Authorities, particularly high-ranking governmental officials, but also journalists and other influential members of the public, have the responsibility to speak out against racism, and particularly to combat episodes of anti-Romani sentiment which may break out when Roma arrive from abroad.
Securing the Rights of Itinerants
A number of European states have made advances in developing policies to address the needs of itinerants, and models of good practice exist, particularly in the field of education (often through school outreach programs) and in the field of site-provisions for Travelers. However, in a number of states, policies addressing the needs of itinerants are either not rights-based or, in the extreme case, actually preclude itinerants from realising fundamental rights, such as the right to vote. In other instances, policies addressing itinerants perpetuate patterns of segregation. Policies aimed at itinerants should be thoroughly developed, with human rights as their fundament. An overview of ERRC Fortress Europe concerns follows:
ERRC Concerns: Fortress Europe1
On January 15, 2002, Mr Alin Gheorghe Valica, a 23-year-old Romani man from Romania, his common-law wife, 22-year-old Mariana Nedelica, and their six-month-old daughter Alexandra Nedelica, were stopped at the Rome airport and detained for four days before being allowed, finally, on January 19, to enter Italy. As of January 1, 2002, Romanian citizens have enjoyed visa-free travel to countries in the European Union, including Italy. Mr Valica and Ms Nedelica reportedly were not only able to show border authorities sufficient pecuniary means for their planned stay in Italy, as well as valid hotel reservations, but also, they had procured visas to Italy while the visa regime was still in effect. Mr Valica subsequently told the ERRC that border officials had told him that the reason for his detention was that Italy "did not want Gypsies". While Mr Valica and his family were still detained, border authorities reportedly also told Mr Claudio Olivieri and Mr Luigi Olivierio, volunteers for the non-governmental organisation Associazione Nazionale Antirazzista e Interetnica "3 Febbraio", and Mr Iancu Selvester, a Romani activist, all of whom were attempting to assist in securing Mr Valica and his family's release from custody, that "the problem was that they are Gypsies."
The case of Mr Valica and his family is illustrative of a number of issues at the core of ERRC concerns:
- Mr Valica was in possession of money, a hotel reservation and a visa, despite not even needing one; that he and his family were perceived by border authorities to be "Gypsies" apparently overrode all indications that he was law-abiding, and produced an effect of suspicion strong enough not only to cause them to be banned from entry into Italy, but even to bring about their detention, in contravention of numerous human rights treaties to which Italy is a party, including the European Convention on Human Rights.2
- Mr Valica has been informed by several Italian attorneys that, despite the likelihood that he has suffered blatant racial discrimination,3 there is probably no legal remedy available to him, and certainly not one accessible without a protracted (and expensive) struggle.
- Mr Valica and his family suffered the humiliation of racial discrimination at an international border in Europe, illustrating that despite explicit rulings to the contrary by the European Court of Human Rights,4 at present, European borders are effectively "rights-free zones".5
It is widely held that one area in which states have discretionary powers is in the field of decisions on whom to admit onto the territory of the state and whom to refuse – broadly the field of immigration and individual establishment.6 However, central concepts of international human rights law – the right of persecuted persons to asylum7 and arguably also the ban on discrimination – significantly limit that discretion. In addition, a number of European states have in recent years voluntarily agreed to renounce discretion in this area, as immigration and asylum issues have passed into the competence of the European Union, as well as through a number of other interstate agreements.8 As a direct result of restrictive immigration policies in the countries of the European Union and now ever more frequently in candidate states for accession to the European Union – policies commonly referred to as "Fortress Europe" – individual rights – including but not limited to the right to life,9 the right to freedom from torture and humiliating, cruel or degrading treatment,10 the right to liberty and security of person, and the right of refugees to asylum, have been repeatedly violated in recent years.11 Moreover, a number of these policies have had a discriminatory impact on certain groups, or have been explicitly discriminatory. Due to anti-Romani racism in Europe, Roma have been particularly affected.
- Failure to Provide Refuge to Persecuted Roma12: Following 1989, states, especially Western European states, have engaged in a wide array of measures aimed at precluding Roma and many others from having access to a real and substantive asylum procedure.13 In the most noxious of instances, for example that of Finland in 2000, states have actually amended laws in direct response to the arrival of several hundred Roma requesting asylum. Some countries, notably Germany and Switzerland, have refouled14 Roma to Kosovo after it became widely reported and well-documented, following July 1999, that Roma were being ethnically cleansed from the province by ethnic Albanians. The ERRC is of the view that persecution should be understood as a sustained or systemic violation of basic human rights demonstrative of a failure of state protection.15 It is the position of the ERRC that due to conditions in many European states, many Roma, especially Roma from Central and Eastern Europe, would qualify for refugee status, were they provided access to a real and substantive refugee determination procedure. All Roma from Kosovo outside the province should be provided with asylum.16
- Discrimination Against Roma in Border Decisions and Policies: As of April 2001, an explicitly discriminatory decree has ruled immigration policy in the United Kingdom, ordering border authorities to subject certain ethnic groups – among them Roma – to special measures.17 In related developments, beginning on July 18, 2001, British immigration officials have been stationed many times, each time for a number of consecutive days, in Prague's Ruzyně airport, subjecting passengers bound for the United Kingdom to additional immigration checks. This pre-clearance procedure, which has been repeatedly suspended and reintroduced in the approximately eight months since its introduction, has led to widespread reports that it is, in intent and practice, discriminatory against Roma. The ERRC is currently involved in legal action against the British government in connection with its actions at the Prague airport. British authorities are not alone in having engaged in discriminatory decisions at state borders. On January 27, 1999,Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that German border guards had refused entry to two separate groups of Czech and Slovak Roma because they did not have the required amount of money – fifty German marks (approximately 25 euros) per day – to enter the country. The report stated that the majority of people crossing the German border were not required to prove that they had the necessary amount of money.
- Discrimination against Roma in Individual Expulsion Decisions:Reports that Roma suffer discrimination in individual expulsions are widespread. An NGO survey conducted by the Prague-based Tolerance Foundation conducted in 1996-1997 found that nearly all Slovak citizens sentenced to judicial expulsion in the Czech Republic in the period 1993-1997 were Roma;18 and that during the period 1993-1997, around 70% of Slovak citizens issued with prohibition of residence orders by the police were Roma.19 Most Roma expelled from the Czech Republic to Slovakia during the period 1993-1997 had previously been citizens of Czechoslovakia and were arbitrarily deprived of citizenship in the Czech Republic by the Act on Citizenship, adopted in 1992 in the context of the dissolution of the Czechoslovak state and in effect from January 1, 1993.20 Although no data is available on the subject, there are widespread reports by non-governmental organisations that Roma in Slovenia and Croatia have suffered a similar pattern of discriminatory expulsions following the dissolution of the Former Yugoslavia and the declaration in 1992 of the independence of Croatia and Slovenia.
- Collective Expulsion of Roma:On February 5, 2002, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Belgium had violated key provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights when it collectively expelled, in October 1999, 74 Roma from Slovakia who were seeking asylum in Belgium.21 In connection with the case, the Court awarded 10,000 euros in damages to a Romani family called Conká, who had filed a complaint to the Court in relation to the case, as well as 9,000 euros for legal costs and expenses. Similar expulsions of Roma have been carried out by other European countries since the political changes of 1989. Centrist governments have caved in to right-wing pressure; the rule of law has been suspended; anti-Romani sentiments have become widespread. On March 3, 2000, for example, Italian authorities reportedly expelled to Bosnia fifty-six Roma detained during raids on two Romani settlements in Rome. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, members of the group were later physically abused by ethnic Serbs while attempting to go to their prior places of residence in the Bosnian "Republika Srpska" entity. A law suit brought by the ERRC in connection with the case is currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.22 In addition, according to articles in the Romanian and Portuguese press, on April 8, 2002, Portuguese authorities expelled more than two hundred Romanian Roma to Spain. The ERRC is pursuing legal action in the case. Massive deportations of Roma have also taken place from Germany since borders opened following the political changes of 1989; Germany has sent back large groups of Roma to Macedonia, Romania and Bosnia in ethnic-specific deportations throughout the 1990s. A high-ranking Cypriot official told the ERRC that his country routinely expels Roma to Turkey.23 Other countries to have collectively expelled Roma in recent years include Finland, Norway, Poland and Sweden.
- Detention as a Deterrent to Immigration:Numerous non-governmental organisations in the United Kingdom contend that the U.K. government pursues a policy of detaining asylum seekers – including, frequently, Romani asylum seekers – in order to discourage the further arrival of persons seeking refugee status in Britain.24 The ERRC has recently received disturbing reports from church NGOs working with Czech Roma in the U.K. that detained Czech Roma have been denied the use of a toilet, denied access to an interpreter, and have been provided with access to a telephone from which the possibility of dialling a well-known legal advisory centre for refugees was denied by the use of a blocking device.25
- Failure to Integrate/Insecurity of Residence:Expulsion of Roma is significantly facilitated by the policies of many European states of blocking individuals from access to establishment and the progressive accrual of real rights in practice – as well as by anti-Romani racism.26 It is the position of the ERRC that Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, guaranteeing respect for private and family life, ensures a degree of security of residence greater than that presently provided in many European countries. In principle, rights should accrue incrementally to all persons factually in a given country, and within five years of factual residence in a country, the possibility of citizenship and/or permanent residence status should come clearly into view. All domestic legal provisions stipulating forms of protection, as well as those pertaining to forms of residence status, should include an augmentation of rights over time, including in the short term the right to work, and ultimately participation in local decision-making and access to citizenship. Policies and practices rendering residence status difficult or impossible to secure due to bureaucratic obfuscation should be eschewed.
- A version of this text was first presented by the ERRC as part of a longer statement on Roma Rights issues in Europe at a hearing on the legal status of Roma in Europe of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, March 4, 2002.
- Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to liberty and security of person. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to everyone not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
- The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD),the primary international law governing the ban on racial discrimination states, at Article 1, "... the term 'racial discrimination' shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life." Article 6 of the ICERD obliges states parties to guarantee to everyone within their jurisdiction "effective protection and remedies [...] against any acts of racial discrimination [...]." The European Convention on Human Rights states, at Article 14: "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status." In Europe, anti-discrimination law is currently in a period of dramatic expansion: Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, although not yet in effect, will significantly broaden the ban on discrimination in Europe after it is ratified by ten Council of Europe member states, by guaranteeing individuals the enjoyment of any right set forth by law without discrimination. Protocol 12 states: "The enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status." That Protocol 12 was signed by 25 countries when first opened to signature in November 2000 indicates a remarkable consensus in states' resolve to combat discrimination.
- See Amuur v. France: "[...] Despite its name, the international zone does not have extraterritorial status. [...]" (decision of 25/06/1996, REF00000573).
- International law recognises no distinction between citizens and non-citizens where securing fundamental rights and freedoms, and protection from racial discrimination, are at issue. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirms, at Article 2: "Each State Party to the Present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." The European Convention on Human Rights similarly states, at Article 1: "The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention."
- International law provides no right to immigrate. Article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own."
- Refugees enjoy the right to asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereinafter "1951 Geneva Convention"), which defines a refugee under Article 1A(2) as any person who is outside the borders of his or her country of origin and who, "[...] owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is unable or, owing to such a fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country [...]". The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has made clear that discriminatory measures may also rise to the level of persecution:
[...] in certain circumstances [...] discrimination will amount to persecution. This would be so if measures of discrimination lead to consequences of a substantially prejudicial nature for the person concerned, e.g. serious restrictions on his right to earn his livelihood, his right to practice his religion, or his access to normally available educational facilities ("Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, reedited, Geneva, 1992").
- The framework for European Union rule-making on the crossing of the external border by third-country nationals, including matters pertaining to visas, is now regulated under Title IV on visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons of Part Three of the EC Treaty. A number of European Union countries, including Italy, are also participants in a framework of rules on borders and visas called the Schengen Implementing Agreement and accompanying measures (known collectively as the "Schengen acquis"), which further limit the freedom of action of participating states in the field of immigration. The EC Treaty and the "Schengen acquis", as well as several European treaties which have since been superceded, have placed and continue to place obligations on states to act in the common interests of all participating states. On Title IV, the Schengen acquis and other rule systems of and in the European Union, as well as their relevance for non-discrimination, see Cholewinski, Ryszard, Borders and Discrimination in the European Union, Immigration Law Practitioners Association and Migration Policy Group, 2002.
- Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life." Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights states: "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. [...]"
- Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [...]" Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
- Restrictive laws and policies have demonstrably had a negative and humiliating effect on the lives of thousands of individuals in Europe in the past decade, as well as given rise to conditions under which many hundreds of persons have died (See UNITED for Intercultural Action, European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees, "Asylum-Seekers Death Toll Rises to 2000", press release, June 14, 2000, www.united.non-profit.nl). At least eleven deaths - primarily during expulsion procedures - can be directly attributed to the actions of state authorities (see Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Document 9196, "Expulsion procedures in conformity with human rights and enforced with respect for safety and dignity; Report, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography", 10 September 2001).
- ERRC positions on asylum and refugee issues related to Roma are available on the ERRC website.
- That Western European asylum policies are infected by the political consideration of keeping out foreigners at any cost is most evident in the large discrepancy between, on the one hand, Western European rates of recognition of refugees overall and Romani refugees in particular, which generally hover in the low single percentage digits and rarely exceed 5% and, on the other hand, those of other Atlantic states such as Canada, where rates of refugee recognition of Roma have at times approached 80%. The ERRC notes with concern that in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe - countries which are only in recent years implementing international asylum rules - rates of refugee recognition are generally even more restrictive than in Western Europe. Some Eastern European states, including Moldova and Ukraine, had, as of February 5, 2002, not yet even ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention; Belarus, Malta, Monaco and Turkey continued to impose geographical limitations to its application as of that date.
- Article 33(1) of the 1951 Geneva Convention states: "No Contracting State shall expel or return ("refouler") a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."
- This wording is from Hathaway, James, The Law of Refugee Status (1991) and is becoming embedded in international jurisprudence on refugees, together with the recognition that the standard for assessing refugee claims are the international human rights conventions. For example, in rejecting the standard set by the UK House of Lords in a negative ruling in a Slovak Romani asylum case in July 2000 (See "House of Lords Opinions of the Lords of Appeal for Judgment in the Cause Horvath v. Secretary of State for Home Department, 6 July 2000"), the New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority held: "[...] refugee law ought to concern itself with actions which deny human dignity in any key way, and [...] the sustained or systemic denial of core human rights is the appropriate standard. [...] 'Persecution' [...] has been ascribed the meaning of 'sustained or systemic violation of basic human rights demonstrative of a failure of state protection.'" (See Refugee Status Appeals Authority of New Zealand, "Refugee Appeal No. 71427/99", decision of 16 August 2000).
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has advocated "[...] the recognition of Kosovo Roma as refugees or persons in need of international protection [...]." (See United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), "UNHCR Statement to the 57th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Thematic Discussion on Roma, 15 August 2000"). The March 2001 "UNHCR Position on the Continued Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo," the UNHCR stated, "[t]he security situation remains especially precarious for members of Kosovo Serbs and Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian (RAE) minorities. They by and large would qualify for refugee status." Further information on Roma in Kosovo is available from the ERRC website: www.errc.org.
- The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which came into force in April 2001, prohibits racial discrimination by public authorities, but allows for an exemption from this prohibition for the immigration service. Consequently, British immigration officers are allowed to discriminate on the grounds of national and ethnic origin in deciding who is allowed entry to the U.K. Moreover, the immigration service has actually been ordered to discriminate on such grounds by the British Government, under a Ministerial Authorisation signed on April 23, 2001, by Home Office Minister Ms. Barbara Roche. Under the terms of the Ministerial Authorisation, immigration officers are to subject certain groups "to a more rigorous examination than other persons in the same circumstances"; the groups listed as deserving of additional attention are: "1. A person who is of Chinese ethnic origin presenting a Malaysian or Japanese passport or any other travel document issued by Malaysia or Japan. 2. A person of one of the following ethnic or national origins: a) Kurd; b) Roma; c) Albanian; d) Tamil; e) Pontic Greek; f) Somali; g) Afghan." The explicitly discriminatory nature of the Ministerial Authorisation notwithstanding, a number of these groups singled out for special treatment - particularly Kurds, Roma, Tamils and Pontic Greeks - are unlikely to be in possession of documents attesting to their ethnic origin. Immigration Officers will therefore be forced to rely upon personal appearance, means of arrival, country of departure and other arbitrary criteria as a guide as to whom they are meant to be applying these new regulations.
- The punishment of judicial expulsion is set out in Article 57 of the Czech Penal Code. In 1993, a total of 506 foreigners were sentenced by courts to expulsion from the Czech Republic. Of these, 111 were Slovak citizens. In 1994 there were 596 such individuals, 189 of whom were Slovaks. In 1995, 742 persons were sentenced to expulsion, 240 of whom were Slovak citizens. In the first half of 1996 courts issued 376 expulsion sentences, and 123 of the persons expelled were citizens of Slovakia. For more information, see, Struharova, Beata, , Roma Rights 1/1999.
- The Foreigner Police of the Czech Republic is empowered to impose a prohibition of residence order on foreigners. The Tolerance Foundation study found that although the total number of foreigners whose residence had been banned declined steadily during the period 1993-1997, the number of Slovaks issued prohibitions of residence steadily increased. According to official statistics, 16,441 foreigners were ordered to leave the country in 1993. Of these, 95 were Slovak citizens. In 1994, 11,792 persons were issued residence bans; of these, 338 were Slovaks. There were 8,211 such cases in 1995 and 436 of these were Slovaks. Although statistics on the ethnicity of the person banned from residence do not exist, non-governmental organisations working on issues related to Roma and foreigners report that possibly over 70% of these Slovaks are Roma (see Struharova, Op. cit.).
- Law no. 40 of the Czech National Council, 29 December 1992, effective 1 January 1993. On the Act on Citizenship and its effects, see Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, "Ex Post Facto Problems of the Czech Citizenship Law", September 1996; European Roma Rights Center, "Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Center Concerning the Czech Republic for Consideration by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its Fifty-second Session, 6-9 March, 1998"; European Roma Rights Center, "Letter to the Council of Europe", August 6, 1997; European Roma Rights Center, "Statement of the European Roma Rights Center on the Occasion of the Acceptance of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO", July 10, 1997; Human RightsWatch/Helsinki, "Roma in the Czech Republic: Foreigners in Their Own Land", June 1996; Tolerance Foundation, "The Non-Czech Czechs", Prague: August 1995; Tolerance Foundation, "Notes on the Czech Citizenship Law's Background", Prague: February 1995; Tolerance Foundation, "A Need for Change, The Czech Citizenship Law: An Analysis of 99 Individual Cases", Prague: November 1994; Tolerance Foundation, "Report on the Czech Citizenship Law: The Effect of the Citizenship Law on the Czech Republic's Roma Community", Prague: May 1994; UNHCR, "Citizenship in the Context of the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia", September 1996; UNHCR, "The Czech and Slovak Citizenship Laws and the Problem of Statelessness", February 1996.
- On October 5, 1999, Belgium expelled 74 Slovak Romani asylum seekers after attempts to detain approximately one hundred and fifty Slovak Roma in two Belgian cities. On September 30 and October 1, 1999, local authorities in the city of Ghent ordered a number of Romani asylum seekers to appear before the police. Some came to the police station after receiving written summons, while others were reportedly detained by police during house searches. Many Roma were reportedly lured to the police office under the false pretext that they had to complete additional forms as a part of their asylum application. Once at the police station, the Roma were immediately detained and transferred to a closed detention centre called "127bis Steenokkerzeel" on the outskirts of Brussels. They remained in the centre for four days under heavy police guard until their deportation on October 5. The Belgian government's decision to proceed with the deportation came in the face of a decision earlier the same day by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg expressly requesting that the Belgian government stay deportation for eight days to permit consideration of whether such deportation would violate the European Convention of Human Rights. Detailed information on the case is available on the Internet at: www.errc.org. In connection with the case, Mr Jan Čonká, his wife Maria Čonková, and their children Nad'a Čonková and Nikola Čonková, with the assistance of local counsel in Belgium, filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights, asserting that their fundamental rights had been violated. The ERRC assisted in preparing documentation for the submission. In its February 5 statement, the European Court announced that it had found violations of the following articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 5(1), guaranteeing the right to liberty and security of person; Article 5(4), guaranteeing the right to take proceedings by which lawfulness of detention shall be decided; Article 4 of Protocol 4, prohibiting the collective expulsion of aliens; Article 13 (guaranteeing the right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 4 of Protocol 4. The full text of the decision is available on the Internet website of the European Court of Human Rights: www.echr.coe.int.
- For further details of ERRC action in the case, see pp. 16-19 in this issue of Roma Rights.
- Cypriot Presidential Commissioner Mr Manolis Christofidestold the ERRC: "We respect Roma who are citizens of Cyprus. But sometimes Roma from Turkey cross the Green Line [the cease-fire line separating Turkish-occupied Cyprus and the area of the island ender effective government control]. We think they may be spies so we send them all to mainland Turkey." (ERRC interview, April 27, 2002)
- Authorities in the U.K. frequently seek to justify detention of asylum seekers with the reasoning that asylum seekers "may not comply with the procedure."
- Representatives of the UK-based Church Mission Society reported to the ERRC on February 18, 2002, that on February 1, 2002, Ms B.K., a Czech Romani woman, had been taken into custody and brought to a detention centre in Dover. Her 28-year-old daughter Ms S.K. and her one-year-old grandson A.K., were reportedly detained at the same time and brought to a detention centre in Badford. In detention in Dover, the room in which Ms B.K. was detained reportedly had no toilet; cells were closed and lights put out at 10:00 PM and the cell was only opened again at 8:00 AM. On one occasion, guards did not open the cell until 13:15. Despite repeatedly calling for assistance and banging on the radiators in the cell, no one came to open the cell, and Ms B.K was forced to urinate in the cell. She was expelled from Britain several days later, despite reportedly having valid permission to stay in the United Kingdom until April 2002. She was not provided with any explanation for her detention or her untimely expulsion, and her expulsion from Britain may contravene international refugee law, as it is not clear whether she had received a final decision to her asylum application. According to the Church Mission Society, Ms S.K. was taken with her infant son A.K. to a detention centre in Badford. Ms S.K. was reportedly not provided with any information as to why she had been detained and was precluded from contacting a legal advice centre as the telephone she was provided was apparently fitted with a blocking device for certain numbers. No interpretation was provided to her and officials reportedly filled out a series of forms in her presence without providing any explanation of what they were. Also, a powdered milk formula for feeding A.K. was taken away from her and it took over three hours of negotiation before it was returned. There are reportedly no facilities for children in the Badford detention centre and Ms S.K. was not allowed to take any food into the rooms, although her son needed a snack in the late evening. Ms S.K. and A.K. were released from custody on February 5, but A.K.'s birth certificate had still not been returned to him as of February 26, 2002. A.K. was born in Britain, and his birth certificate is his only form of identification document. Ms S.K. believes she was only released from custody due to strenuous lobbying efforts by her fiancé, who is British, and the intervention of a local advocacy group. When Ms B.K.'s son, 17-year-old M.K., realised that his mother, sister and nephew had been taken into detention and presuming that his mother would be expelled to the Czech Republic, he reportedly went to the detention centre in Dover and requested to be expelled with her. Officials there, however, allegedly refused his request. M.K. had arrived in Britain with B.K., and he was listed on her permit of stay as a dependent. As B.K. was expelled from Britain with their common document, he has been informed that he may now be illegally in Britain. As of February 26, 2002, M.K. was attempting to lodge a new asylum application independent of his mother's.
- In Germany, for example, many Roma who fled genocidal attacks during the ethnic war in Bosnia in the early 1990s are still, almost ten years later, regulated under a status called "tolerated" (geduldet), in practice a mere stop on deportation. The permit of "toleration" (duldung) is often issued for periods as short as three months. Many Roma from Bosnia now have children born in Germany, integrated in German schools and with only very attenuated links to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nevertheless, the German administration still apparently expects that eventually it will be possible to force such Romani families to return there. Recent decisions by the Federal Ministry of the Interior have set down conditions for providing access for persons from the former Yugoslavia to have access to residence permits in Germany. However, according to NGO reports, such decisions are often not implemented in practice. For example, a May 10, 2001, decision by the Federal Ministry links access to a residence permit to the condition of having worked legally in Germany for two years. However, in many German states (länder), persons with a "tolerated" status are barred from working legally. Insecurity of residence where Roma are concerned is no better illustrated than by the case of Ms Marie Pascher, a Romani woman born in Austria in 1963 to a woman who had fled Hungary during the anti-Soviet uprising in 1956. Shortly after her birth, Ms Pascher had been provided with the group protection made available to Hungarian citizens at that time. In 1995, Austrian authorities informed Ms Pascher that she would have to go "back to Hungary" (a country in which she had never set foot with a language which she did not speak) in order to apply for a visa as a first time visitor to Austria, since her protection status had run out. Despite having lived in Austria all of her life, at the age of 32, Ms Pascher had no legal status in Austria. Ms Pascher was finally provided with Austrian citizenship in 2000, after a struggle of close to five years with the Austrian bureaucracy, and only as a result of the persistence of a local non-governmental organisation.