Statewatch article: RefNo# 6596
German-Yugoslav agreement puts Roma at risk
Statewatch bulletin, vol 12 no 6 (Nov-Dec 2002)
On 1 November, a new readmission agreement between Germany and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came into force, paving the way for the deportation of around 100,000 people, over half of whom are Roma facing institutional and popular racism in Yugoslavia. The majority of them have been living in Germany for around ten years with their children born and brought up there. The readmission agreement is modelled on "modern EU readmission standards", Interior Minister, Otto Schily, declared. Last April the European Council set out criteria for the identification of third countries with which the EU should draft readmission agreements. Economic (trade and aid), diplomatic and political pressure on third countries to sign readmission agreements are thought to be "an extremely useful and efficient instrument in the fight against illegal immigration" (JHA Council press release, 15.10.02). The new and modern German-Yugoslav readmission agreements puts thousands of refugees under risk of economic destitution and the minorities amongst them in danger of attacks. Since April this year several hundred Roma refugees have set up a camp in Düsseldorf in protest at their planned deportation, but despite their widely supported action the deportations are continuing.

From refugee to illegal migrant
The first German-Yugoslav readmission agreement came into force in 1996, and despite provisions under the Dayton agreement of 1995 allowing only for the deportation and 'organised return' of refugees to Bosnia-Herzegovina if they could securely return to their homes. Germany enforced deportations, in particular of Roma refugees, not only into a life without housing or economic stability but also to danger of discrimination and racist attacks (European Roma Rights Centre press release 1997). After the persecutions in Bosnia in 1992, several hundred thousand refugees found support from friends and relatives in Germany, but despite refusing them a secure residency status, the German authorities have not managed to fulfil their deportation targets.
The German deportation plans were supported by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council this year, which in October considered the state of progress of EU readmission agreements with 11 countries, because the Council believes it is more "cost-effective" to deport people than to "support" undocumented migrants (see Statewatch news online). It is a position that contradicts recent government assertions that immigration is economically beneficial to the EU as well as reports on the exploitation of cheap undocumented migrant labour in EU industry sectors. More importantly however, just like the German position on refugees from former Yugoslavia, it declares victims of armed conflict "illegal immigrants" in an attempt to justify their mass deportation.
On 16 September this year, Interior Minister Otto Schily, and his Yugoslav counterpart Zoran Zivkovic, signed a new readmission agreement, removing in particular bureaucratic obstacles to the deportation of Yugoslav citizens. Whereas under the 1996 agreement, German authorities had to ascertain the citizenship of a deportee with the Yugoslav authorities, now a document proving Yugoslav nationality to the German authorities allows Germany to initiate the deportation without the expressed permission of the Yugoslav authorities. Another new aspect of the agreement follows the "modern" EU standards, introducing an obligation on the third country not only to automatically readmit its own, but also third country nationals and stateless people coming from or having lived in that country. Schily praised the agreement as a "sign of the Yugoslav government coming closer to Europe" the standard EU diplomatic carrot for Eastern European countries - that is promises for possible accession to the EU in the far-distant future.

The reality of "readmission"
The conflict in Bosnia in 1992 produced more than 3 million refugees, the biggest refugee crisis since the second w

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