Thursday, May 19, 2005

Shades of Persecution Past? Germany Forces 50,000 Roma to Leave Country

Germany has decided to deport 50,000 Roma, better known as Gypsies back to Kosovo from which they had fled during the ethnic cleansing and wars of the 1990s.

The Roma will be returning to a region which routinely limits Roma travel and freedoms and where just last year, ethnic Albanians rioted against the Roma, forcing 4,000 from their homes and killing 19. This is not a safe region. But the United Nations has signed off on Germany’s plan, claiming that Kosovo is now stable. Additionally, neither the UN nor Germany will be providing the Roma any aide once they return. Many who are being forced to return have lost all contact with Kosovo and have no homes or employment to return to.

What is most disturbing is that while Germany is deporting the Roma refugees, ethnic Albanians who fled the same conflict have often been allowed to stay in Germany. This is why many human rights organizations are calling the German actions racist. In fact, Germany has a long history of severe prejudice against the Roma (as does much of Europe.) During World War II, the Nazis were determined to rid the world of Roma and an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 Roma were put to death in what is referred to as the Porajmos (in essence, the Roma Holocaust).

Is the current deportation another instance of persecution of the Roma? Given the fact that Albanian refugees have received much better treatment and given Germany’s violent history toward the Roma, it is hard to think this current action is based solely on reasoned policy as Germany insists. In fact, what if these were Jewish refugees? Wouldn’t we then seriously question German intentions? Wouldn’t we, in fact, be alarmed?

There are few news reports in English on the deportation. But what has been reported is deeply troublesome. The United States should take notice and either pressure Germany to reconsider or insist the UN provide real assistance to the deported Roma. The historic persecution of the Gypsies may not be as well-known as the persecution of the Jews. But that in no way absolves us of our responsibility to ensure the Roma are not being unjustly treated once again.

Thanks to A Little Left of Centrist for alerting us to this story.


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