May 5, 1997
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) expresses
its strong concern about the present attempts of the Federal Republic of
Germany to force the approximately 320,000 de facto refugees which it has
harboured since the outbreak of the war in Bosnia to leave Germany. While
protesting deportation in principle as an inhumane solution to the problem
of forced migration, the ERRC is particularly concerned about the effect
of deportations on Bosnian Roma, who comprise a significant portion of
the Bosnian refugees.
The ERRC is concerned that:
1. The precarious legal status of Bosnian refugees leaves them vulnerable
to psychological pressures by government authorities. Very few of the Bosnian
refugees received political asylum in Germany. Instead, the overwhelming
majority were given the relatively weak status of "tolerated" (Duldung).
In legal terms only a stop on deportation, the Duldung is the most inferior
of the multi-tiered system of residence permits available under German
2. The execution of deportation policy is poor and inconsistent. To
date, a number of deportations have been carried out in a manner both insensitive
to the needs of the refugees and inconsistent with the government regulations.
In January 1996, following the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, a conference
of the Interior Ministers of the German lands set forth guidelines and
a timetable for the return of a first group of Bosnian refugees. Beginning
in February 1996, the Berlin authorities began informing individuals included
in the so-called "Phase I" -- singles, families without children, and offenders
-- that they should leave "of their own free will" or face deportation.
By all accounts, Phase I has gone sloppily. Individuals with children have
been issued orders to leave. The category of "offenders" has included individuals
caught driving with a Yugoslav driving license. One wave of approximately
40 deportations from Bavaria in March 1997 included a single pregnant woman
and people who had been awoken in the middle of the night and allowed no
time to pack. The psychological pressure on the Yugoslav refugees is tremendous.
Phase II of the return is set to begin on May 1, 1997, and may include
many if not all of the rest of the Bosnian refugees. Although the deportation
measures implemented by the German authorities are explicitly only to assist
them to leave "of their own free will", the manner of their implementation
calls the idea of free will expounded by the German authorities strongly
3. Conditions on the ground in Bosnia remain unsatisfactory for return.
Much of the material infrastructure destroyed in the war has yet to be
rebuilt, and intense hostility toward, and violence against members of
minority ethnic groups persists in numerous communities. International
organisations have documented that conditions in Bosnia remain precarious.
According to UNHCR, 60% of the houses in Bosnia were destroyed in the war
and only a small portion of these have been rebuilt. According to a March
1997 Amnesty International report, there is simply not enough accommodation
available for large-scale returns in the near future. Almost none of the
stipulations of the Dayton Accords have been implemented as envisioned.
The ERRC is convinced that that the forced return of Bosnians is rash and
immoral, motivated only by Realpolitik.
4. As a stateless minority, Roma are at particular risk in the ethno-nationalist
political environment still prevailing throughout much of the Federation
and Republika Srpska. Investigation conducted by the ERRC among Bosnian
refugees in Berlin in early April 1997 revealed that Roma fear discrimination
and exclusion in the new Bosnian state. The ERRC believes that Roma, without
an ethnic homeland state representing their interests, may be justified
in their fear of unequal treatment in Bosnia.
The ERRC therefore calls on the German government
1. Stop all deportations of de facto Bosnian refugees.
2. Recognise the legitimacy of the Bosnian refugees in Germany.
3. Halt psychologically coercive measures.
4. Reconsider the legal basis of the current deportation policy, taking
- the refugees' personal preferences;
- the security situation in their Bosnian places of residence;
- the presence of a minority identity, such as Roma, which would effect
unfavourably their integration in society;
- their individual housing situation in Bosnia;
- other individual factors of humanitarian nature.