The End of Freedom of Circulation

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - The Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, is raising strong accusations against politicians and media in Germany. According to Romani Rose, the current "controversy over the freedom of circulation within the EU" is carried out "at the expense of a minority" in Germany. "Poverty migrants" are generally perceived as Roma and "criminalized in a wholesale manner." The current campaign against "Eastern European immigrants" should "not go shamelessly unchallenged." This campaign, nurtured by the CDU/CSU as well as members of the SPD, is, in fact, emblazoning widely prevalent anti-Roma chauvinist sentiments. This campaign also supports Berlin's deportation and border sealing policies against Southeast European Roma, carried out with legally dubious means, strongly criticized, for years, by human rights organizations. Within the EU, this German campaign is also meeting resistance. Freedom of circulation is a fundamental value in the EU, can be heard in the EU Commission, regarding Berlin's demands for the right to impose a "re-entry ban" on alleged "welfare fraudsters," which is aimed also at poverty refugees from crisis-stricken countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Wholesale Criminalization

The Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, is raising strong accusations against politicians and media in Germany. According to Romani Rose, the current "controversy over the freedom of circulation within the EU" is carried out "at the expense of a minority" in Germany. "Poverty migrants" are "exclusively" associated "with Roma" and "criminalized in a wholesale manner," claiming that they are taking advantage of the social system; that they dump their garbage and trash out on the street in front of their doors, etc." However, Sinti and Roma have lived "for centuries" in Germany and, on the whole, are "inconspicuous and fully integrated." It is very dangerous that - as "immigrants from Southeast Europe" - Roma are now generally stigmatized as a financial burden.[1] "When I look back over the past few years - with the neo-Nazi NSU murder series and the more than 100 murders with right-wing extremist motives - it does not leave me cold," affirmed Rose. A campaign launched already 20 years ago by politicians and certain media against "poverty immigrants" (meaning asylum seekers at the time) had provoked a volatile climate, in which neo-Nazis reverted to deadly force. The Rostock pogrom (1992) and the Solingen arson attack (1993) are but two examples.

"Finally Do Something!"

The German government is escalating this campaign - in spite of all warnings to the contrary. Recently, the German Association of Cities made headlines when it asserted that 147,000 "poverty migrants" had come to Germany in 2011 from Rumania and Bulgaria. Already, these statistics were false - three-fifths of these "poverty migrants" had only come to Germany for a brief period - to do so-called seasonal labor for extremely low wages - but the politicians immediately called for action. "If we do not finally do something, the situation will escalate after January 1, 2014," the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister for Social Affairs Guntram Schneider (SPD) was quoted as saying.[2] In an interview last week, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich added "those (...) who come only to pocket social benefits (...), must be effectively prohibited."[3] Last Thursday Friedrich even escalated the debate, when he warned of a "wild fire and a bomb to European solidarity."[4] The media is primarily focusing this campaign on the Roma, by repeatedly claiming that "Roma from Bulgaria and Romania" are inflating municipal social spending."[5]

"Banned from the Inner City"

The campaign emblazons and promotes prevalent chauvinist anti-Roma sentiments. A study published in 2011 indicates that 27.7 percent of Germans polled, agree with the statement: "Sinti and Roma should be banned from the inner cities." 40.1 percent approved of the sentiment: "I would be disturbed if Sinti and Roma would linger in my area." A recent assessment of prejudices about Roma, as seen through comics, cartoons, and children's literature series concluded that in Germany, "even children are being familiarized with 'Gypsy' stereotypes at an early age."[6] Roma also are the victims of violent assaults. In a 2006 opinion poll of German Roma, around one-tenth of the respondents answered to having experienced "threats and insults," and a majority, to having even been attacked by neo-Nazis. In Klingenhain (Saxony), a Roma home was burned to the ground by arsonists, December 26, 2009. The above quoted assessment provides numerous other examples of the brutal aggression and wholesale criminalization experienced by Roma in Germany.[7]

Passports Revoked

The current campaign is also a continuation of Berlin's deportation and border sealing policy against Roma from Southeast Europe. For years, human rights organizations have been sharply criticizing the deportation of Roma to Kosovo, where they risk severe poverty and massive discrimination. Some German regional governments have not even interrupted these deportations during the winter.[8] Nils Muiznieks, Human Rights Commissioner of the European Council, recently criticized the fact that Brussels was applying pressure to EU-candidate nations, e.g. Macedonia, to get them to agree to prohibiting Roma from leaving their country in the direction of the EU. According to the commissioner, Macedonian authorities have been revoking many passports of Roma, to prevent them from leaving the country. Since that country's citizens no longer need visas to enter the Schengen Zone, Macedonian Roma, of course, would also have that right. The refugee organization Pro Asyl, for example, points out that Macedonia has become very sensitive to German-EU pressure, not to lose its crucial visa exemption. These measures evidently imposed on Macedonia, constitute, according to the Human Rights Commissioner of the European Council, a violation of human rights, which must be taken seriously.[9]

Objective: Re-Entry Ban

According to Interior Minister Friedrich, the current campaign is aimed at imposing a so-called re-entry ban for alleged welfare fraudsters. Last week, Friedrich insisted at a meeting of EU Interior and Justice Ministers that such a ban must be facilitated. So far, he has been encountering resistance from the EU Commission. The German campaign is grossly exaggerated, complained a spokesperson for EU Social Commissioner László Andor: "At the moment" the alleged wave of so-called poverty-refugees are nothing more than "a perception within the member countries that has nothing to do with reality."[10] The spokesperson pointed out that the freedom of circulation within the EU, which Germany now seeks to limit, remains "one of Europe's fundamental values." Therefore, interference with freedom of circulation is a serious matter.

The Price of the Austerity Dictate

Limitations to freedom of circulation, evidently, are being aimed not only at citizens of Bulgaria and Rumania. A few days ago, the interior minister was quoted saying that if word gets out "in Europe," how much welfare "a four - five member family" can receive in Germany, a lot more people than now, will possibly head for Germany.[11] Meanwhile, the press has printed new statistics on migration to Germany, according to which, the influx is primarily from crisis-stricken southern European countries, even though, for the time being, it remains restricted to a labor migration. For example, immigration from Italy from 2011 - 2012 rose by 35.5 percent, from Portugal by 53.1 percent, from Spain by 53.6 percent and from Greece, 78.2 percent. The rapid spread of dire poverty at the periphery not of "Europe" but of the Eurozone, which is being bled dry by the German austerity dictate, is forcing a growing number of people to emigrate. Tens of thousands of Portuguese are now seeking work in the former Portuguese African colonies, while some are also seeking work in Germany. To keep German national budget expenditures as low as possible, even while the southern periphery sinks deeper into dire poverty and be able to keep undesired working migrants at bay, Berlin is now using a campaign against Roma, to try to abolish the freedom of circulation within the EU - at the expense of the people at the periphery.

[1] Romani Rose: "Die Roma werden zum Sündenbock gemacht"; www.schwaebische.de 08.03.2013
[2] Minister schlägt Alarm vor Armutswanderung; www.guntram-schneider.de 18.02.2013
[3] Innenminister Friedrich will mit einem Veto in Brüssel die Aufnahme von Bulgarien und Rumänien in den Schengen-Raum verhindern; www.spiegel.de 03.03.2013
[4] EU-Kommission bezweifelt Armutseinwanderung; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.03.2013
[5] Elend als Geschäftsmodell; www.faz.net 24.02.2013
[6], [7] Markus End: Gutachten Antiziganismus. Zum Stand der Forschung und der Gegenstrategien, Dezember 2012
[8] see also Unglaubwürdig and Am Rande der Müllkippe
[9] Balkanstaaten erledigen für Brüssel die "Drecksarbeit"; www.proasyl.de 05.03.2013
[10], [11] EU-Kommission bezweifelt Armutseinwanderung; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.03.2013