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German-born Roma teens face tough new life

AFP · 19 Aug 2010, 11:29

Published: 19 Aug 2010 11:29 GMT+02:00

"I feel like I am in prison. I do not go out of the yard," said 13-year-old Bukurije Berisha in fluent German as she pointed to the high walls surrounding her dilapidated house.

"I still hope I will wake up and see it was a bad dream."

The girls were born after their parents gained asylum in Germany in 1993, fleeing a brutal crackdown on Kosovo by the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

They speak no Albanian, the dominant language in Kosovo, and only a bit of their parents' native Roma tongue.

But last December, they landed with their parents and five brothers and sisters in a poor Roma settlement with filthy, narrow streets on the edge of the western Kosovo town of Pec.

The Berishas are among some 14,000 Kosovars - 10,000 of them Roma - to be returned from Germany under a bilateral deal in April, nearly 11 years after the end of the Kosovo war.

And those who will suffer most are children like Bukurije and her sister Lumturije, warn experts including Thomas Hammarberg, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, the pan-European rights body.

On Tuesday, he singled out Kosovo as he urged member states to refrain from action that only worsens the exclusion of Roma, many of whom already live on the fringe as stateless people without documents and thus denied basic human rights.

"For instance, western European states should stop forcibly returning Roma to Kosovo," Hammarberg said in a statement.

Rights groups have sounded the alarm about a new round of discrimination against what some call Europe's most hated minority.

In France, controversy has dogged a government crackdown on illegal gypsy camps and moves to expel foreign gypsies breaking the law, after President Nicolas Sarkozy said some in the community posed security problems. Most Roma - an ethnic group widespread in eastern Europe - in France are thought to come from Romania and Bulgaria, both of which joined the European Union in 2007.

European Justice and Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding already warned in April that "the situation of many Roma seems to have deteriorated over the years," adding "that is simply not acceptable."

Last month, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, noted that about half of the Roma to be deported from Germany to Kosovo are children, the majority of them born and raised in Germany.

"Children are the ones most affected by these forced returns," Hammarberg warned in a foreword to the UNICEF report. "In Kosovo they are confronted with an entirely new reality. They feel lost and alienated."

The home the Berishas left was burned down in the bloody 1999 war that ended the conflict in the former Serbian province, which declared independence in 2008 despite fierce Serbian opposition. Now the family lives in a cousin's house with no indoor plumbing or running water.

The two sisters no longer go to school. They blame language trouble but also say they feel like outcasts with their urban European manners and fashionable clothes.

''Children tease and call us names in school," Lumturije said.

They long to return "home" and vow to do so when older.

''I feel German''

"I was born there and I feel German," a tearful 14-year-old Lumturije Berisha said, remembering her home in Arnsberg, western Germany. "I miss my school. I miss going to walk with friends in my city."

Analyst and prominent Roma journalist Kujtim Pacaku said it was an "illusion" to expect Roma children to integrate "after such a cultural shock."

"To do so, they have to forget all their previous experience and knowledge and begin from zero."

Germany has pressed for the refugees' return for years. And despite the April deal, even Kosovo's Minister for Welfare, Nenad Rasic, conceded that his country simply does not have the resources to receive and integrate all returnees.

Kosovo is considered one of Europe's poorest countries where official figures show nearly half the two million population is unemployed and living under the poverty line.

Critics in both countries have charged that Kosovo is unable to guarantee basic human rights like access to adequate housing, health care or education to its own inhabitants, much less to returning Roma.

Kosovo "first must create conditions for their integration," said a Roma member of parliament, Danish Ademi, who opposes the return of gypsies.

"Otherwise, people will have to beg or steal ... in order to feed their families," he said.

Families with special needs children have not been excluded from the expulsions from Germany. Staff at the German embassy in the Kosovo capital Pristina was not available for comment.

Story continues below…

The nine-member Miftari family was returned after a 16-year stay in Germany where two of their sons, now seven and 11 and both profoundly deaf, were born.

"In Germany the conditions were ideal. They went to a specialized school which picked them up from home each day and returned them," their father Shemsi Miftari said sadly. "Here they are forced to collect scrap metals and tin cans."

The Mulolli family has a similar tale. Their two-year-old daughter suffers from what they said is a congenital disorder that makes her "forget" to breathe in her sleep, though they could produce no verifiable medical documents, saying they were given only a short time to pack one bag per family member when they were expelled and had no time to gather medical documents.

Selina's condition is controlled by special, expensive portable equipment attached to her chest at night to alert her parents if she stops breathing, they said.

"The equipment uses replaceable and expensive diodes we cannot afford and which even do not exist here," her father Florim said.

"Germany condemned Selina to death, but we will not let her die," he said bitterly, hugging the lively blonde girl on his lap.

Florim's son Rrahman, 14, like the Berisha girls, said he felt like a refugee in Kosovo and was in constant touch with his German friends via Facebook.

"When German police came to our flat to take us to the airport they said, 'We're taking you home,'" he said.

"I told them my home is here."

Your comments about this article

13:03 August 19, 2010 by concerned4u
As it is written "he girls were born after their parents gained asylum in Germany in 1993," . So I am curious why these girls were not give the Citizenship?

As they were legally born (as their parents have asyl status) in Germany and living more than 10 years!
14:09 August 19, 2010 by Johnne
This is pure discrimination. are the y not German citizens since they were born un Germany?
14:34 August 19, 2010 by heathen
Pretty harsh, but I guess D-land is not straddled with the 'anchor baby' problem like the USA has.
14:41 August 19, 2010 by dbert4
Once again...being born in Germany doesn't make one a citizen!

The current, "Auslander Recht" gives a child born in German the right to stay in Germany till their 8 year. If one is here as an asylum seeker to begin with, which isn't the same as citizenship not sure what applies.

But Germany probably has enough street beggers and "Kopftauch Mädchen" so I'm sure that it's okat for them to go home to Kosovo.
14:45 August 19, 2010 by concerned4u
But according to the law, is it not that if one stays in DL legally 8 years should get the citizenship who has proper German language knowledge?

In this case these children speak the proper German as the reporter mentioned and they were here lived more than 8 years.

As asyl status is an acceptable and legal status.
15:38 August 19, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
We were sorely wrong in our position in how we dealt with the Kosovo issue. With the situation in the Balkans in general. What we did is, we gave "half-help". We should have either committed ourselves fully, to the destruction of the genocidal regime by force of arms, the lengthy occupation necessary in order to install an egalitarian democracy, and the economic and social assistance necessary for that new government to survive, or we should have just left the bloody place alone to deal with it's own problems.

So now we have this, and it's our fault. Those kids were born in the Fatherland. They speak German, they like Nutella and Bauernbrot, they know how to get around Cologne or Munich by bus, and want to grow up to be electricians or mechanics or doctors or managers or bakers. We made them what they are, and they have a right to come home.
16:03 August 19, 2010 by chimpansi
Very Sad. Roma's are being sent out from everywhere. Recently France sent few hundreds.

There were article which says they are treated badly in Romania and Bulgaria too. Where do they really belong??
16:40 August 19, 2010 by concerned4u
The birth rate is already negative. And DL is sending back these children who is already acquainted/used to the culture of Germany. Gov. or Politicians should bring back these children. And give them a chance to be a doctor, journalist, engineers.
16:58 August 19, 2010 by Legal E
So you have people who speak fluent German, assume integrated into German society, proud to be German (Not another nationality that some "Germans" prefer), and then kick them out... ummmm. Bonkers I say old bean. Just Bonkers.
17:07 August 19, 2010 by Al uk
dbert is correct. Being born in a country does not make that person a citizen.

As for what the French are doing the UK should do the same.
19:19 August 19, 2010 by Prufrock2010
This will serve as a "good" example to the American right wingnuts who want to expel millions of American born children of "illegal" immigrants and make them stateless. In America, of course, the 14th Amendment guarantees that anyone born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction is a citizen. The response of the right wing "strict constitutional constructionists"? Ignore that niggling little provision, because they know they can't repeal the 14th Amendment altogether.

Germany's actions in this case are reprehensible. America will follow suit.
19:48 August 19, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I will first start by saying that all humans deserve to

have a quality life, unless they violate a civil law.

There must be laws and enforcement, because no law = no civilization.

The world is screwed-up simply because it lacks effective leadership. First we had the League of nations, of courese it failed. And now we've had the UN for a number of years.

But it has actually created more problems than it has solved.

I blame them for much of the world's misery.

Let's all be honest here. The future our species does not look promising. The situation between Israel and Iran alone,

could potentially launch us into World War III.

Therefore it's imperative that we change the equation.

I'm sure absolutely that I have the answer. If humans were to fully commmit to lving non-emotionally, then within the next 20 years, this world would be so changed, that it would seem as though we have arrived on an entirely new planet.
21:43 August 19, 2010 by JAMessersmith
@Prufrock2010

You do realize that when the 14th Amendment was being debated in Congress, the Bill's Author, Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, specifically stated the "Citizenship Clause" was not intended to apply to "persons born in the United States who are foreigners". Meaning, citizenship was not meant to be a reward for families breaking US law by immigrating to the country illegally.

Besides, that's quite a different situation than what you have happening in Germany anyway. Birth within the country's boundaries, by any interpretation, doesn't constitute German citizenship, so the point is moot. Germany more or less granted these Roma people a favor by allowing them to stay in Germany as refugees during the war years and immediately thereafter. This was done so they wouldn't be murdered by their own genocidal countrymen, not so they could become German citizens. If anything, by claiming German citizenship, and all the benefits thereof, they are more or less abusing the refugee status that the German state so compassionately granted to them while their own country was ripped apart by war. If their children were embittered by having to move, that's life, and is the case for most all families, whether your parents are moving to a different city for a new job, or whatever reason.
22:39 August 19, 2010 by Talonx
Ever more proof of the continuing harm done by any degree of nationalism.

Those of you pushing the nationalist agenda can either decide to be of a nation or of mankind, but they are mutually exclusive identities, you'll have to pick one.
22:42 August 19, 2010 by Prufrock2010
JAMessersmith --

As I happen to be a lawyer, I am fairly familiar with the distinction between the utterances of congressional authors and the final bill. Congressional or legislative intent is often used by courts to interpret statutes. Constitutional amendments are something else again. The primary intent of the 14th Amendment was to provide citizenship to slaves and children of slaves following the Civil War. However, the language of the 14th Amendment is clear and unambiguous, and whatever Mr. Howard of Michigan may have intended did not make its way into the language of the Amendment as ratified. In point of fact, when that amendment was ratified, there were no "illegal" immigrants in the US because there were no immigration laws. Therefore your argument is specious. Under the express terms of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, people born in the US and under the jurisdiction of the United States are citizens. Period. No case law has ever held otherwise.

Germany is a different matter, I agree. It has no similar constitutional provision. Nevertheless, I think the expulsion of these children by the German government is reprehensible.
11:39 August 20, 2010 by tallady
I do not get the same sense PRUFROCK,this is more to the reason of the 14th adm.

What the Amendment did was to "add to" the Constitution by establishing a second "class of citizen" over whom the federal courts would have jurisdiction. However, underlying this seemingly favorable course of action was a pervasive and insidious problem in the making.

Prior to the ratification of the Amendment, for people in the original class of citizenship, their state courts dealt with virtually every matter that was appropriate to be brought before a court, and the federal courts could only hear matters that dealt exclusively with issues in the U.S. Constitution, or federal action in connection with the first 13 amendments. In other words, the line between state and federal authority in the lives of citizens was crystal clear.

Although the 14th Amendment was intended to serve a laudable purpose, the unintended consequence was to radically shift the balance of federalism and blur the lines almost beyond distinction. How did that happen?

For people in the original class of citizenship, the courts of the United States had almost no jurisdiction in their affairs. Opportunity for federal intervention in the lives of the average American was virtually nil. [Ah, the good old days!] By contrast, when the 14th Amendment was ratified, the United States government became the preeminent protector of every "right" of the persons granted citizenship by the Amendment. This meant that the federal government could tell the states how they could and could not deal with "its" citizens. In other words, a state legislature could vote to control this or that within it borders relating the proper view of life in that state, but the federal government had the right to say, "That's fine for your citizens [original class], but we won't permit you to apply that law to our citizens [14th Amendment] who may be living in your state". This meant that for the first time in history, the United States government could haul a state official into federal court for enforcing a law duly passed by the elected officials of the state for which he worked! While this was a positive tool for protecting the recently freed black slaves from egregious state legislation such as the Black Codes, it flung the door open to federal intervention in the states in a way the Founding Fathers had never intended, nor would have permitted.
12:39 August 20, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I always find it interesting when people postulate about what the American "Founding Fathers" would hypothetically permit in the times we now live in, thereby to divine some tortured interpretation of the Constitution. The Founding Fathers didn't consider black people to be human beings, but chattel. The Founding Fathers didn't believe women deserved to vote. The Founding Fathers didn't believe that individuals had an inalienable right to privacy, hence failed to incorporate such a right into the Constitution. The list goes on ad infinitum.

Your gripe seems to be with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, without which there would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Voting Rights Act of 1965, blacks would still be living under Jim Crow in the American South, interracial marriage would still be illegal in 37 states and all forms of discrimination would be a states rights issue to be decided on a state by state basis. This is the bottom line libertarian philosophy, and it is anathema to everyone who fought and died for equal rights for all.

Your "original class of citizenship" consisted only of white male landowners. You seem to want to revert to those "good old days." Most reasonable people don't agree.
21:23 August 20, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, if humans were to behave more like animals, then surely we would have a more harmonious world. The interesting thing about animals, is that they actually do as they should.

Although they strongly believe in having boundries and being with their own kind, yet there is a considerable amount of repsect in the animal kindom.

As a Christian, I do believe it was by design, that God gave humans the most profound thinking power. But with power comes responsibility. And out of control power is very dangerous.

The Human Concept has failed so far, simply because humans are stranded, some where between animals and God.
14:29 August 21, 2010 by BobbyDigital
I guess God failed in his design then?
15:26 August 21, 2010 by trottercarriagehorse
well point here being the german way of doing things 'citzenship by defined by the germanness of your families bloodlines` is bad- and really harkens back to darker time, while the american way 'citizenship by birth' is good. which if I might add goes back to the core differences between old europe and the new world- we are land of immigrants. . or as the germans used to stay one of those 'inferior bastard mix races'. As such we welcome new comers in a way europe has yet to do. .I mean as whole, not stay it has always been easy for the Irish, Italians, Mexicans etc. but at the end of the day you get a place at the table. here in europe you get deported in the third generation.
17:59 August 21, 2010 by tallady
Purfrock, I only wanted to point out that the 14th amendment did not sole the problem of xslaves,,it created 2 kinds of citizenship,therefore civil rights leg. was needed in the later years to give these people same citizenship the rest of the USA had, the 14th amendment did not do that.The good old days was vicious ,I never said I had a "gripe,,are you a US citizen???
23:36 August 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
tallady --

I'm a US citizen by virtue of being born there -- courtesy of the 14th Amendment. I do not live there.

The 14th Amendment did not create 2 kinds of citizenship. It created a constitutional framework for equal protection under the law for ALL citizens, and defined who they were.

Regarding your previous "states rights" argument, I refer you to the Supremacy and Commerce clauses of the US Constitution, which are not there by amendment.
00:05 August 22, 2010 by DrGideonPolya
The reason that racism is so offensive to decent people is that one cannot do anything about where one is born and to whom. Germany has committed enough atrocities against the Gypsies (Roma) in history and in living memory in particular - it is estimated that about 500,000 Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis in World War 2.

This racist decision to deport German-born, German-speaking Roma to Kosovo is not surprising given the New Democratic Nazism in a Germany that has resumed involvement in genocide on a huge scale, specifically in Occupied Afghanistan where post-invasion non-violent deaths from deprivation total 3.5 million, post-invasion violent deaths may total 1 million, post-invasion under-5 infant deaths total 2.4 million and refugees total 3-4 million (an Afghan Holocaust and an Afghan Genocide according to Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention).

Key messages from the WW2 Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies killed) are surely "never again" to anyone and "never again" by Germans in particular. This latest racist German decision parallels that of the New Vichy French Government under pro-Zionist Nicholas Sarkozy that is deporting thousands of Gypsies to Romania while simultaneously, like Germany, being involved in the ongoing Afghan Holocaust and Afghan Genocide.

Decent people will apply Sanctions and Boycotts against the new German and French racism (noting that Chinese goods are much cheaper and not tainted by the US Alliance crimes of invasion, occupation, mass murder, mass infanticide and genocide). Would you buy soap made in Auschwitz?
00:25 August 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"Would you buy soap made in Auschwitz?"

No, but I won't buy anything made in China, either. Do you think the Chinese occupy the moral high ground on human rights??!!

I think you and your numbers are a little over the top, but I agree that genocide is genocide and I think it reprehensible that Germany and France are deporting native-born Roma and making them stateless.
01:15 August 22, 2010 by MichaelMolenaar
I support the decision to deport them, the tax payers of Germany have no obligation to these people.
20:24 August 22, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Michael Molenaar --

Why not put them in labor camps and work them to death? If that's not cost-effective, then why not gas them? It was done before.

Whenever there's an economic crisis or high levels of unemployment, societies must find scapegoats. Who better to scapegoat than the gypsies? They are helpless. Your abundance of human compassion is truly touching.
00:21 August 24, 2010 by Struwel
Michael Molenaar, speak just only for yourself but don't include all German tax payers in your comment. I'm a German tax payer too and to me to force them to settle in Kosovo is so wrong, I can't even find the right words.
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