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May 20, 2019
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Germany: TV discussion Sinti and Roma a concept of enemy: are we too intolerant?

Germany, 24.1.2013 14:11, (ROMEA)
TV discussion
TV discussion "Menschen bei Maischberger". Participants were (from left to right) Romani Rose, Philipp Gut, Nizaqete Bislimi, the discussion leader Sabine Maischberger, Damir Kovani, Joachim Hermann and Claudia Roth. (Photo: WDR/Max Kohr/WDR Presse und Information)

58 Percent say that they do not want Sinti and Roma as neighbors. Where do those prejudices come from? Are the Germans to intolerant? There is an increase in incoming Sinti and Roma from new and future European states. It is without controversy that in their countries the Sinti and Roma live under horrible conditions and in penury. But the public fight started, not just in politics, if Germany can and should accommodate them. This public interest was the reason why they brought up the topic “Sinti and Roma a concept of enemy: are we too intolerant?” in the TV discussion round “Menschen bei Maischberger” on the 20th of November in 2012.

Part of this discussion was Romani Rose, chairman of the central council of the German Sinti and Roma, Claudia Roth, chairwoman of the German green party (B’90/ Grüne), Joachim Hermann, from the conservative party CSU and he is also the minister of interior in Bavaria, Philipp Gut, a Swiss journalist, Nizaqete Bislimi, she is Roma and came to Germany when she was fourteen, now she is a lawyer, and later also Damir Kovani joined the discussion, he applied for asylum in Germany.

Mr Rose stressed that Sinti and Roma are living in Germany and as Germans since 600 years. They identify themselves with their country, Germany, and they do not expect tolerance but respect because they are equal members of the society and citizens in this country. Furthermore he points out that the German government just recently dedicated the Memorial to Roma Nazi Holocaust victims in the heart of Berlin. The position of this memorial shows its importance, and honors the victims. He argues that the purpose of this memorial is not to transfer the guiltiness to the Grandchildren-Generation, but it points out our responsibility to protect the democracy and the rule of law. He says that this is important to acknowledge by discussing this topic, because the rule of law means that everyone is just in charge of their own actions and behavior and not for the group that they belong to.

Controversial article in the Swiss newspaper "Weltwoche"

This was an allusion to the article, which was written by Philipp Gut, “The Roma are coming: raids in Switzerland” which was published in the Swiss newspaper “Weltwoche”. This article was heavily criticized and others even pressed charges against it, one of them was Romani Rose. He explained that this article is racist, as it makes criminality a matter of origin. Mr. Rose goes on and says that “Nobody in this country, as a matter of the German history, would even think of accusing someone who is affiliated to the Jewish religion, and to write in the Media about that he is a Jew. These days are over”.

Philipp Gut defended himself by pointing out that his article is based on facts. He explains that he explicitly wrote about criminal Tourism, so this does not include the, approximately 50.000, Roma which are living in Switzerland. It is about the Roma that come to Switzerland as tourists with the goal to burgle houses. They mainly use the children and train them for the burglaries.

But Mr. Gut’s article was not just criticized because of his content but also because of the very controversial picture that he chose for this article. The picture shows a small boy who points with a toy gun at the camera. This boy lives in the Kosovo and has never left the country. He was just playing. Mr. Gut highlights that this picture is fitting perfectly for the article, as it symbolizes the grievance about which the article is about. This grievance is, as he explains, that it is very popular in Roma clans to abuse children for criminal actions.

Claudia Roth heavily criticized this picture and said “You should apologize to the boy, who is a lot older now, and to his family because with this headline you suggest that he is a criminal. [...] This is unethical journalism. [...] You [Philipp Gut] agitate, with this powerful picture, against Roma and you incite prejudices and promote discrimination”.

Increase of asylum applications

Joachim Hermann was changing the topic, and it is not really a less controversial one, to the increased number of asylum-seekers from Serbia and Macedonia. He says that about 7000 new applications are coming every month comparing to last year when it was just about 100 per month. Mr. Hermann argues that the Roma in those countries are not experiencing persecution that would qualify them for asylum and that they are just applying to get the money out of the German welfare system.

All those applications are getting examined but Roma, according to his argumentation, do not fulfill the requirements to be seen as political persecuted so their applications are rejected. It is up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to evaluate the situations in those countries and decide whether or not those circumstances are asylum-relevant conditions. He goes on and says that “we cannot receive everyone who has not the same living standards as we have in Germany”. Mr. Hermann’s argumentation is based on the dilemma that there is not enough space for everyone in the reception camps and that the Roma, that in his view just abuse the German welfare system, take away the places from those who are ‘really’ in need, for example those who suffer from the civil war in Syria.

Mr. Rose agrees with Mr.Hermann that those circumstances are not a reason for asylum. Countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are part of the EU and still the living standards there for Roma are more like in Bangladesh. It is a question of humanity and of human rights and it is the duty of the Western European states to influence those countries to stop this segregation and integrate their minorities. 

Is the state failing?

To the question if it is a failure of the state when Romas are being left alone with those prejudices, Mrs. Bislimi answered that it is defiantly a states failure because one needs to step up to them and give them the feeling that they are welcome in this country and that it is heard what they want. One needs to show them also how it could work and they should not be abandoned. She is a role model for how it could work. She came with 14, finished school, went to the university and is now a lawyer who helps others with their applications for asylum. Mrs. Bislimi said that she could just succeed because so many people were standing behind her who actually believed in her, otherwise she would have never made it that far.

Also Damir Kovani is speaking about his experiences as a Roma in Germany and his reasons why he applied for asylum. When Damir Kovani came the first time to Germany he was five years old. He had a normal live in Germany. He went to the kindergarten and to school but in 2002 his family was deported to Serbia. They came originally from there and his nationality is Serbian. They came because of the war but had to return when the situation was settled. His family split and he was alone with his 4 year old sister in a country that was alien for him. He could not go to school anymore, the people were swearing at him and he got hit by the police, so he decided to come back with his wife and family to Germany and applied for asylum. His application was rejected. They have time until the 25th of January to voluntary leave Germany.

The discussion was very emotional, a lot of times Mrs. Maischberger had to calm down her guests and get the discussion back on track. It is a very sensitive topic so it was obvious that it would not be an easy going discussion but it was necessary to address this topic in a public discussion.

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Romani Rose, Immigration, Germany, EU, Diskuze


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