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Bonn to order gypsies home to Romania

TENS OF thousands of Romanian gypsies - one of the main targets of right-wing racists in Germany - are about to be forcibly deported, the German Interior Ministry announced yesterday. The deportations, which will begin in November, were made possible after months of negotiation between Bonn and Bucharest, the ministry said.

Under an agreement due to be signed next week, Romania has promised to take back all its citizens whose applications for political asylum have been rejected.

One of the key aims of the agreement was to deter the gangs of 'human smugglers' involved in bringing gypsies illegally into Germany, a ministry statement said. Bonn was also trying to reach similar agreements with other countries from which large numbers of would-be refugees flee, it added.

Of the 278,000 asylum-seekers that have entered Germany so far this year, some 43,000 have come from Romania, making it the second largest country of origin behind the former Yugoslavia.

Some 60 per cent of all Romanian asylum-seekers are gypsies, many of whom have taken to begging in cities throughout Germany, much to the annoyance of the local population.

In the wave of xenophobic violence sweeping the east of the country, Romanian gypsies have frequently come under attack by right-wing extremists who additionally accuse them of being dirty, of stealing and of making too much noise.

Although the gypsies claim they are politically persecuted at home, only 0.2 per cent of those applying for asylum this year are expected to be allowed to stay.

In the past, many rejected asylum-seekers have been able to extend their stays by months and even years by launching protracted appeals against the decision and by working illegally.

Out of desperation, some refugees destroy their passports and identity papers in a bid to avoid being sent home. Under the agreement with Bucharest, however, even this category will be forcibly deported.

News of yesterday's agreement came as police reported another night of racially motivated violence throughout the country. One of the worst incidents was in the eastern town of Wismar where an asylum-seekers' hostel containing mostly Romanians was attacked for the third consecutive night by a gang of about 40 petrol bomb-throwing extremists. No one was injured in the attack, but six people were arrested.

Elsewhere, assaults were reported at the eastern towns of Zemitz and Blankenfeld, where five cars parked near a foreigners' hostel were vandalised. In Dresden, Jorg Schwalm, Saxony's chief prosecutor, said that six right-wing extremists had been arrested after a police raid on 109 flats throughout the state on Wednesday. Dozens of weapons, including baseball bats, clubs, knives, a harpoon and a loaded pistol, were confiscated, he said.

Peter Raisch, the head of Saxony police, said that contrary to many expectations, evidence uncovered in the raids gave no indication that the eastern extremists were well organised, or directed by neo-Nazis from Germany's western states.