The Amsterdam Treaty, june 1997
Knocking at the gate, june 1997
Rumania, preselection for the European Fortress
France, Human rights for 'sans-papiers'
Belgie, "He who keeps silent now must fear everything" Ratko Zamir
Romania, preselection for the European Fortress
The ever stricter asylum policy in the European Union also has
its consequences in countries that border on the EU or are trying for
One of the most important causes of the collapse of the Ceau- cescu government was the wish to open the borders for people to travel to Western Europe. For trading with the west they were reasonably open, against the will of the USSR, for Roma- nians themselves however until 1989 there was practically no opportunity to travel abroad, not even into bordering Eastern Bloc countries. This isolated the Romanians. Many, among them many Roma, lost their lives trying to illegally cross the border, or they ended up in prison where abuse awaited them. Still since the sixties Somali students came to Romania, Romanian workers traveled to Libya and many Romanian Jews left for Israel.
Exodus from Romania
When Ceaucescu fell in '89 masses of people left the country. This exit
reached its height in '90. The Romanian economy opened up to the world
market, it's restruction led to mass dismissals. Especially small scale
industries were hurt, the standard of living went down. At the same time
the tightening of the asylum policies in Europe were being felt in Romania.
Various countries adopted new agreements regarding deportati- on, where
the EU countries, following the BRD, obliged them- selves to form repatriation
treaties with Romania and intensi- fy their border controls.
Military border control in particular but inland control as well, have
increased. Illegal border crossing has since '92 again become a punishable
offence, whereas before it was a misdemeanor. When arrested on the border
or inland one can expect the worst. Romania is still a police state, months
of detention under dismal hygenic circumstances in small spaces are an
everyday thing; torture is plenty. Following the EU countries Romania
also adopted mandatory visa's for people of the South Asian subcontinent.
For entry a return ticket and financial means are mandatory. Romania has
obliged itself to take back those that illegally travel to Hungary or
the former Yugoslavia (Serbia), but are arrested.
If one reaches the Romanian border wanting to apply for asylum and able
to produce travel documents one is allowed into the country. Without these
documents one must apply for asylum immedeately at the border, after which
one mˇght be allowed into the country. This however depends on the discretion
of the individual civil servant, many of whom do not know or respect the
rules of admission.
Since '94 Otopeni, Bucarest airport, has a border prison. It holds people
who's identity could not be traced in the EU countries but who are not
connected to Romania either. The foreign police state they have traveled
to Europe on the Romanian airline Tarom. There are also prisoners who
were on their way to Western Europe and for example had a stop-over in
Romania. And there are people who crossed the national borders but did
not have the proper visa, or who were arrested during raids.
Many are deported and new refugees are imprisoned. Some are there for four months or longer. Wether or not they are aired depends on the willingness of the guards. Sometimes prisoners were not aired for four days. Medical care is minimal; various medical problems are treated with the same medication. There is no TV, there are no newspapers, the prisoners are isolated.
The detention of foreigners has never been openly discussed in Romania, it's just there, while there is no legal ground for it. Legal detention orders or legal scrutiny do not exist. It is a kind of police detention with no maximum term; often detention lasts around 5 months. On an everyday basis rights depend on the discretion of the guard on duty. Together with the airport police and the cooperating airlines, political responsibility for the detention at the airport lies with 'the interdepartmental committee for migration problems'. It was instated in September of '92. On this committee are represen- tatives of the Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs, Inter- nal and Foreign Affairs, Justice and Finance and Economic Affairs, Health and Education. This committee has made some recommendations, for instance a decision has to be made about an appeal for asylum within 1 month. But according to APADOR, the Helsinki committee from Bucarest, these guidelines are usually not followed. In Romania an appeal for asylum can only be made on wednesdays and thursdays between 12.00 and 16.00, in the centre of Bucarest. For those detained at the airport this is impossible. There is no opportunity to be heard there either. Because the reasons for turning down a request are not stated, any form of appeal is a farce.
Waiting for deportation
The arrested illegals and refugees who have been deported from other
EU countries to Romania, have no chance to apply for asylum, neither during
their arrest nor during their detenti- on. Many repeatedly but to no avail
appeal for asylum to the police and UNHCR. The UNHCR has visited the prison
but stated they can do nothing.
For decades the Romanian government has had excellent diploma- tic relations with Turkey and various Arabic countries. Becau- se Romania is a transit country for many refugees and migrants from these countries, these people are especially threatened by direct or indirect deportation. Romania is 'good' at group- deportations, which are of a military character. An infamous example is the deportation of Tamils to Colombo in '94 on a Tarom flight. Many of these were arrested upon arrival. German embassy personnel was shown to have played a part in this group-deportation, while the UNHCR were excluded.
source: Rum„nien. Vor der Toren der Festung Europa, FFM Heft 2, 1996, Berlin.