In recent years, several thousands of people, many belonging to the Roma and related communities such as Ashkali and Egyptians, have been forcibly returned to Kosovo by Western European countries. Germany is one of the countries expelling Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families that have been living there long time, often fifteen years or more. In Germany, the families had a “toleration status” called “Duldung”, meaning they had no secure right to stay. The deportations take place in the framework of a “readmission agreement” that Germany, as well as other European Union member states, concluded with Kosovo. Kosovo was pressured into accepting this agreement as a stepping stone to visa liberalisation with the European Union. However, the country does not have the economic structure nor a secure and stable social environment to receive these families. The deportations were heavily criticized by UNICEF, the Council of Europe and several NGOs. In spite of this, in accordance with a German decision of 2009, another 12 000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian persons will be returned to Kosovo in the coming years, half of them children.
Most of the deported children were not only brought up in Germany but were born there as well. They feel German. Prior to deportation most children never set foot in Kosovo and speak German only. Those who do speak some Albanian or Serbian often know the languages insufficiently to follow teaching. Although the whole family suffers severely from the deportation, children are particularly affected. Their whole life is in turmoil once Germany decides they no longer belong there. The children feel uprooted and suffer from a loss of identity. The families’ hopes and dreams are shattered. They face a bleak future.
In Kosovo, the children and their parents fall into a marginal existence. The families live in abject poverty with almost no income opportunities. Housing is cramped, unhealthy and precarious. Families live in constant fear to become homeless. Some returned families even live in terrible conditions in camps for internally displaced persons. Furthermore, numerous families don’t feel secure in Kosovo. They feel intimidated and are exposed to discrimination by both the Albanian majority and the Serbian minority.
Access to education is problematic. Three out of four children are not able to stay in school because of poverty, language barriers, discrimination and lack of the necessary documents. Many of the children don’t have civil documents for Kosovo, which blocks even more their access to education, welfare and medical services.
While in Germany the children went to school and had a social life, in Kosovo they are mostly confined to the house. Socially excluded, they only have their families to fall back on.
This photo essay documents the life of a few deported families that now live on the margins of Kosovo society.