To the land of dreams – stuck within asylum-policy regulations

On average one third of the Western Balkan refugees coming to Germany are Roma. [1] In Serbia, it’s more than 90 percent. Yet, since December 2012 Serbia is (as well as Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and since October 2015 Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo) declared to be a country of safe origin.[2] According to the German Basic Law (Art. 16a) this refers to countries in which due to the legal situation as well as the application of law and the general political circumstances it seems guaranteed, that neither political persecution nor inhumane or humiliating punishment or treatment will take place. The aim of this declaration was to more efficiently deal with asylum applications of the respective states– enabling authorities to easily reject applications and deport refugees.[3] The reason for changing the law was a significant increase of especially Serbian asylum applications to particularly Germany after the visa liberation in 2010.[4]

In 2012 and 2013 – despite the Arab uprising and the civil war in Syria – most asylum seekers in Germany came from Serbia. In 2014 Serbia still ranked second after Syria and only in 2015 went down to rank 5. During these years zero percent of the Serbian asylum seekers were recognised as refugees and only a percentage of less than 0,1 percent was temporarily tolerated and not deported back immediately.[5]

In this context the German government made clear to the Macedonian and Serbian government that they would withdraw the visa liberation if the number of asylum applicants from their countries was not going to decrease soon.[6] As a consequence, ethnic profiling was installed at the Serbian borders, where especially Roma as potential asylum seekers were stopped from leaving the country even if they had all necessary documents.

While these topics primarily concern the recently migrating Roma from the Western Balkans, Roma who fled to Germany during the 90s are also confronted with difficult legal circumstances. [7] Instead of a residence permit they were usually only granted a toleration, which in the best case they could regularly extend. As they receive neither a passport nor a residence permit they can be deported at any given moment without prior notice. For this reason, families who had been living in Germany for around 20 years, who’s children were born and raised in Germany and do not talk another language but German, suddenly needed to leave their home to ‘go back’ to a country which even for the parents had become foreign.

Furthermore, the access to language and integration courses as well as work is strongly restricted or completely denied. Since the ‘toleration’ is no residence permit but simply decriminalises the people staying in Germany, it expires when leaving the country, so the people concerned are not able to leave Germany temporarily.

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[1] Geinitz, Christian (2015). Ein Drittel der Balkan-Flüchtlinge sind Roma. Retrieved 20.05.2016 from http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/fluechtlingsstrom-ein-drittel-der-balkan-fluechtlinge-sind-roma-13724375.html

[2] Article 16a, Sentence 3 German Basic Law and §29a Asylgesetz

[3]  Waringo, Karin (2013). Serbien – ein sicherer Herkunftsstaat von Asylsuchenden in Deutschland? Eine Auswertung von Quellen zur Menschenrechtssituation, p.5. Frankfurt/Main: ProAsyl

[4]  Alscher, S., Obergfell, J., Roos, S. R. (2015): Migrationsprofil Westbalkan. Ursachen, Herausforderungen und Lösungsansätze, p.5. Working Paper 63 des Forschungszentrums des Bundesamtes. Nürnberg: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge.

[5] Bundesministerium des Innern (2012 until 2015). Asylzahlen. Retrieved 20.05.2016 from
http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2013/01/asylzahlen_2012.html
https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2014/01/asylzahlen_2013.html
http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2015/01/asylzahlen_2014.html
http://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2016/01/asylantraege-dezember-2015.html

[6] End, Markus (2013). Gutachten Antiziganismus. Zum Stand der Forschung und der Gegenstrategien, p.34. Mannheim: RomnoKher

[7] Pušija, Nihad Nino (2012). Duldung Deluxe, Passport. Über geduldete und aus Deutschland abgeschobene Roma-Jugendliche und junge Erwachsene. Berlin: Archiv der Jugendkulturen Verlag KG