German treatment of Romanians stirs up old fears: Deportations remind critics of Nazi era, writes Adrian Bridge in Berlin

AN ANGRY man in a white polo-neck sweater and three days' stubble turned to the waiting photographer and held out his reddened wrist - testimony to the fact he had recently been handcuffed. 'Deutschland nicht gut]' he cried. 'You write that in your newspaper: Deutschland nicht gut]'

He did not go into more detail. Captain Ralf Pistor, head of the border police at Berlin's Schonefeld airport, did not give him the chance. And, besides, the man had a plane to catch: a one-way flight to Bucharest to where he and some 100 fellow Romanians were about to be deported.

Under the terms of a controversial agreement signed between Bonn and Bucharest last October, Germany won the right to return - by force if necessary - any Romanian discovered to have entered the country illegally or whose application for political asylum had been turned down.

The agreement was reached against a background of virulent racist attacks in Germany, many of which were directed against gypsies, who make up by far the largest part of the nearly 200,000 Romanians who have fled here since the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in 1989. But critics immediately denounced it as blatantly discriminatory with sickening echoes of the Nazi era, during which hundreds of thousands of gypsies were sent to their deaths.

'We gypsies are once again being treated like animals,' said Rudko Kawczynski, president of the Hamburg-based Roma National Congress. 'In Romania we are persecuted and now we are being forcibly deported - from Germany of all countries. This is racist politics in the old tradition.'

Although some of those gathered in the airport's specially sealed-off waiting room on Tuesday night were gypsies, the majority were not. Clutching plastic bags containing the meagre possessions they had brought with them on their flight, most were ethnic Romanians caught by German border police illegally entering the country from Poland earlier that day.

After what for many had been an arduous journey through Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, and a night-time crossing of the Oder river, their only experience of the promised land of Germany consisted of hours of questioning at detention centres close to the border and the bus ride to the airport on the eastern outskirts of Berlin. They all had a small souvenir too: a stamp in their passports bearing the single word 'Deported'.

Compared to the violence witnessed at other forcible repatriations - such as those of Vietnamese boat people from Hong Kong or Albanians from Italy - the scene at Schonefeld was one of model restraint. On Tuesday, nobody resisted. Sometimes they do, admitted Captain Pistor. That's when the handcuffs come out. In cases of continued resistance a member of the border police will personally escort the person on a separate flight to Bucharest.

Although the agreement with Romania came into force last November, the deportations only began in earnest this year. To date nearly 10,000 Romanians have been repatriated, most of them on the now almost daily flights from Schonefeld.

Many more will follow. Despite persistent allegations by gypsies and some human rights groups to the contrary, Germany does not accept that Romania is a country of political persecution and will not, therefore, recognise the applications for asylum lodged by the tens of thousands of Romanians who are still here. Over the past few months, moreover, Bonn has also stepped up patrols along the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic, making it much harder for would-be illegal immigrants to avoid capture on entering the country.

More are being caught and more are being sent back. Gypsy pressure groups such as the Roma National Congress claim that many of those being deported are not being allowed to put in applications for asylum, as they are still allowed to do under German law. Not surprisingly this is denied by German officials, but also by the Bonn representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has sent observers to the deportations.

'On the whole, the people being repatriated are simply illegal immigrants or rejected asylum-seekers,' said Stefan Teloken of the UNHCR. 'As such we have no legal objections to what is happening. Lots of countries have these sort of agreements with each other and there is nothing unusual in this one.

'The real issue at stake is a moral one. After what the Nazis did to the gypsies in the Second World War, many people find it repugnant to see these sort of deportations being carried out here today. The debate is not about the legality of what is happening but about historical guilt.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

SEN KS1 Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Qualified and experi...

KS2 Teacher

£21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Exceptional teacher ...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star