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Housing charity accused of exploiting Roma

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Housing charity accused of exploiting Roma
A Roma family thrown out of France return to Romania. Photo: DPA
11:46 CEST+02:00
A Berlin charity has been accused of housing Roma families in filthy flats and making a hefty profit from over-charging them for the accommodation – tax free, while speaking about them with a shocking lack of respect.

Investigative reporter Hans-Martin Tillack reported in this week's Stern magazine that the Humanitas Kinderhilfe Berlin-Brandenburg has been making significant profit from renting sub-standard flats to Roma families.

The charity's manager Lutz Thinius, who has faced bankruptcy several times according to Tillack, told the journalist, “As a public charity we were asked to take on these people in order that they no longer spend the night in neighbouring parks.”

But the flats he is housing the Roma in leave much to be desired, with one of the organisation's flats in Berlin's Tiergarten district having “massive water damage stretched across the ceiling, and stinking of mould.”

The official business register shows that another flat in the district was bought in 2009 for €22,500 by property company ISB Immoservice, which belongs to a man named by Stern only as Thomas K., an acquaintance of Thinius.

The magazine said Humanitas rented it for a monthly inclusive rent of €410 from ISB and rented it on to Roma for €600 –at what it called, “an unusually high profit of nearly 50 percent.”

Humanitas argued that it was completely responsible for any potential non-payment of rent.

The magazine said that ISB profited from the deal as its contract with Humanitas included an up to 10 percent additional charge because the flat was being rented to third parties, a practice which the Berlin Renter Association said was not allowed.

Yet the magazine said ISB owner Thomas K. is likely to be more concerned with an investigation by Berlin's state prosecutor into possible fraud and embezzlement, allegations he denies.

Humanitas said it worked with other charities in the city working with the Roma, but the Hilfsverein Amaro Drom group, which helps ensure Roma children attend school denied any connection. “We do not cooperate in any fashion with Humanitas,” it said.

The Berlin authorities seem to be so happy that Humanitas seems to get Roma off the streets and out of the parks, that little attention is paid to how this is done, the magazine said.

“One can actually be happy that there is Humanitas,” said one official.

Thinius seemed to play on good connections when writing to one Berliner who had complained about over-crowding of flats in his neighbourhood.

“You can assume that associated groups which are on our side, also have contact to influential political levels,” said the Humanitas letter, which also warned that the, “exclusion intended by yourself of the Romanian families (EU citizens),” would be poorly received in public.

Yet Thinius himself said in several emails that his Roma tenants behave, “more like animals.” He also complained that his charity was largely abandoned by the authorities in its work conducting what he called, “Romanian disposal.”

The Local/hc

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