Controversy Over Kosovo Refugees In Germany

This is an updated version of an earlier post. I first retain the post as it was, then I have added some reflections in the light of comments received.

The Independent is running the following story:

Germany is deporting tens of thousands of Roma refugees to Kosovo despite clear threats to their safety and dire warnings from human rights groups that they will face “massive discrimination” on arrival.

The first of hundreds of planeloads of deportees will arrive at the Slatina airport in Kosovo today, blazing a trail for up to 50,000 people who are to be sent back.

Leaked documents obtained by The Independent reveal that the German government took the controversial decision to eject thousands of Roma refugees and other minorities in November of last year, regardless of the risks they may face on returning home.”

Does anyone in Germany have more info on this?

Clearly the issue is a complex one, and simply pointing the finger at the German decision as racist (as the Independent effectively does) is probably an oversimplification.

Perhaps the most disturbing part is this:

“Over the past five years since the end of hostilities and the imposition of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), many ethnic Albanians, minority Egyptians and Ashkalis have been able to return home and reintegrate into their communities”.

The same situation does not apply to returning Roma. Discriminated against and unwanted by either ethnic group, the Roma have endured a difficult existence on the fringe of Kosovo society. During the war they were accused by many Albanians of collaborating with the Serbs and became the target of ethnic violence. Many thousands of Roma were forced to flee, either into Serb enclaves in the north or into Serbia proper.

Hopes that relations had improved were dashed in March last year as thousands of ethnic Albanians rioted across Kosovo following the alleged killing of a teenager. More than 4,000 people were forced from their homes and 19 people were killed in four days of fighting that targeted Roma and Serbs.

Kosovo is effectively a UN protectorate, yet we are apparently ‘overseeing’ what amounts to an ethnic cleansing, and are unable to do anything about it.

This also seems to be very much to the point:

“At a donors’ conference last week in Pristina, none of the foreign consulates or international organisations were willing to contribute to rebuilding the Mahala, an official source, who attended the meetings, said.”

OK, the riginal post ends here.

I reproduce below Tobias’s entire comment plus links. This story, from being a finger pointing exercise towards Germany, is now becoming an act of self-incrimination of the Independent before the charge of poorly researched and sensationalist journalism. Not that there may not be grounds for criticising the way this issue is being handled both in Germany and by the UN Mission in Kosovo – not to mention the Kosovo administration itself.

Here is what Tobias has to say:

According to the asylum rights NGO “Pro Aysl” – that is heavily critical of the development, there are currently more than 54.000 refugees from Kosovo living in Germany a part of whom may have to return to Kosovo according to an agreement between Germany and the UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) reached on 26 April 2005. Among the refugees there are 8000 Ashkalis, 1,800 ethnic Egyptians, about 24,000 Sinti and Roma, and several thousand ethnic Albanians. The agreement says: From May 2005 on, 300 Ashkali and ethnic Egyptians per month may be recommended by the administration for a return to Kosovo, from July on up to 500, from January 2006 on there won’t be any limits with respect to this group. I’m not an expert on ethnic relations in Kosovo, but even the tendencious article in the Independent states: “Over the past five years since the end of hostilities and the imposition of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), many ethnic Albanians, minority Egyptians and Ashkalis have been able to return home and reintegrate into their communities.” A UNHCR report from March stated with respect to this group that international protection of said ethnic minorities may be necessary in individual cases. A plane with 30 Ashkali aboard left Duesseldorf today.

As for the Roma, the report is more concerned, as accordingly, with respect to the Roma and Sinti, the agreement between Germany and UNMIK states that 40 people per month may be recommended for extradition with the intention to actually extradite 20 people in July and August and to increase the number of extradited to 30 people from September on.

As I said above, there seems to be a beginning political debate that may be challenging the administrative measures, by politically deciding that the region is not stable enough yet for a return, especially not a return of so many people, even in groups of 300 a month.

A spokesperson for UNHCR said they are still favouring a “differentiated solution”, the german migration administration even demanded to grant those refugees who are staying in Germany access to the labour market, Claudia Roth, head of the Green’s faction in the Bundestag stated that the situation in Kosovo were still too unstable and those refugees who have been integrated in Germany for years need to be given a perspective…”

Well, there’s apparently different concepts of integration…

But I think Mr Cahn from the European Roma Rights Centre has delivered a great piece of PR… by finding two journalists who apparently weren’t too much into fact checking… “Germany is deporting tens of thousands of Roma refugees to Kosovo despite clear threats to their safety and dire warnings from human rights groups that they will face “massive discrimination” on arrival.”

Although he is right in one respect “German authorities have targeted the Roma on a racial basis.” That’s why they will apparently not be extradited like the other “racially targeted” minorities.

Tobias provides the following links: here here and here.

The Merkur article kicks off like this:

UNHCR fordert Bleiberecht
Die verst?rkte Abschiebung aus Deutschland in das Kosovo rund 14 Monate nach den ethnischen Unruhen in der Provinz hat die Debatte ?ber ein Bleiberecht f?r die Betroffenen neu belebt. Die Gr?nen, der UN-Fl?chtlingskommissar (UNHCR) und die Bundesbeauftragte f?r Migration forderten eine Aufenthaltserlaubnis f?r Angeh?rige von im Kosovo gef?hrdeten Minderheiten.

UNHCR demands lodging-right

The forced deportation from Germany to Kosovo approximately 14 months after ethnic unrest in the province has again animated the debate over a lodging right for those concerned. The Greens, the UN Refugee Comissioner (UNHCR) and the Federal Commissioners for migration demanded a residence permit for member of minorities endangered in the Kosovo.

In other words there is a certain factual basis to the Independent story in that there are deportations. The basis of the deportations does not seem racially inspired. There is a debate in Germany about this situation, and……….. the whole problem is – I originally suggested – extremely complex, with its roots not in Germany, which accepted and welcomed refugees, but in ethnic cleansing which continues in Kosovo.

11 thoughts on “Controversy Over Kosovo Refugees In Germany

  1. I don’t know if it’s racist, but it sounds like a very bad idea.

  2. Here in Germany we haven’t heard anything about this. And I wouldn’t trust The Independent on exclusive German stories. Wern’t they the same rag that put out the bogus ‘If you don’t take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits’ story?

  3. “Wern’t they the same rag that put out the bogus”

    The link you provide seems to be to the Telegraph: they are not the same.

    Factually the story seems to be well researched, although the emotional contextualisation preoccupies me. That is why I am interested in trying to get more background.

  4. Edward, I’d change the headline… it is SIMPLY WRONG.

    more:
    http://www.merkur-online.de/nachrichten/politik/aktuell/art297,396318.html?fCMS=f7ac9cb3f7ecf6986722651483f23fdf
    http://www.proasyl.de/presse05/mai03.htm

    According to the asylum rights NGO “Pro Aysl” – that is heavily critical of the development, there are currently more than 54.000 refugees from Kosovo living in Germany a part of whom may have to return to Kosovo according to an agreement between Germany and the UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) reached on 26 April 2005. Among the refugees there are 8000 Ashkalis, 1,800 ethnic Egyptians, about 24,000 Sinti and Roma, and several thousand ethnic Albanians. The agreement says: From May 2005 on, 300 Ashkali and ethnic Egyptians per month may be recommended by the administration for a return to Kosovo, from July on up to 500, from January 2006 on there won’t be any limits with respect to this group. I’m not an expert on ethnic relations in Kosovo, but even the tendencious article in the Independent states: “Over the past five years since the end of hostilities and the imposition of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), many ethnic Albanians, minority Egyptians and Ashkalis have been able to return home and reintegrate into their communities.” A UNHCR report from March stated with respect to this group that international protection of said ethnic minorities may be necessary in individual cases. A plane with 30 Ashkali aboard left Duesseldorf today.

    As for the Roma, the report is more concerned, as accordingly, with respect to the Roma and Sinti, the agreement between Germany and UNMIK states that 40 people per month may be recommended for extradition with the intention to actually extradite 20 people in July and August and to increase the number of extradited to 30 people from September on.

    As I said above, there seems to be a beginning political debate that may be challenging the administrative measures, by politically deciding that the region is not stable enough yet for a return, especially not a return of so many people, even in groups of 300 a month.

    A spokesperson for UNHCR said they are still favouring a “differentiated solution”, the german migration administration even demanded to grant those refugees who are staying in Germany access to the labour market, Claudia Roth, head of the Green’s faction in the Bundestag stated that the situation in Kosovo were still too unstable and those refugees who have been integrated in Germany for years need to be given a perspective…”

    Well, there’s apparently different concepts of integration…

    But I think Mr Cahn from the European Roma Rights Centre has delivered a great piece of PR… by finding two journalists who apparently weren’t too much into fact checking… “Germany is deporting tens of thousands of Roma refugees to Kosovo despite clear threats to their safety and dire warnings from human rights groups that they will face “massive discrimination” on arrival.”

    Although he is right in one respect “German authorities have targeted the Roma on a racial basis.” That’s why they will apparently not be extradited like the other “racially targeted” minorities.

  5. “Edward, I’d change the headline…”

    OK I’ve done this. Thanks for the factual background.

    All of this raises so many questions. I’m not surprised that people in Germany get fed-up with this kind of reporting.

    In fact think more about it, I’m going to update.

  6. Oops, sorry for confusing my British papers. But the first thing I thought of when I read this was German-bashing, so forgive me.

    There has been discussion among among Interior Ministers at the L?nder level about tightening deportation procedures, so the story does in a way fit with the current climate.

  7. “those refugees who are staying in Germany access to the labour market,”

    Isn’t this one part of the problem. Having many thousands of people living off public welfare and unable to work is bound to re-inforce negative stereotypes.

    In this sense officially accepted refugees can find themselves in a de-facto worse position to illegal immigrants who work in the ‘submerged economy’ and quietly await an opportunity to regularise their situation. Something here needs to be changed.

  8. And of course the more general question of whether refugees are accepted on a temporary basis, or the various European governments admit that refugees are likely to become permanent settlers. (I don’t think the ‘boat people’ went back to Vietnam, for instance.)

    This is also of a piece with the illusion that people from one country will generally go back there after living in another for a prolonged period.

  9. Yes this story is true. And it was said from the beginning that Germany can be only a temporary place for Kosovo refugees. Germany has taken care of so many refugees so far.

    Guess who does not: Great Britain. But they British always bashing the German donkey as Nazi. Iraq? It is not crime if Britain does it.

  10. “even in groups of 300 a month”

    Yes, and while a headline of 50,000 refugees to be deported looks dramatic, if you also add over 10 years it immediately looks different.

    And if you then went on to say in a resettlement programme in their homes, the article might even begin to become boring.

    But then I suppose “Germany helps 50,000 Tsunami refugees return home” would be even more run-of-the-mill.

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