Two young men who grew up in Germany were deported to Kosovo, even though they had nothing to do with the country of their father. Now they are back, rapping against racism and injustice
The microphone is not working. Cables are quickly unplugged and plugged back in while sliders are moved up and down. The show can't go on without sound. The two Roma brothers stay cool. Their rapper caps are in place and their voices are warmed up. What could go wrong?
"I survive without thinking about it. Get me a bed of nails and lay me on it," is the opening line of a K.A.G.E. song. The two Roma brothers who make up the group rap against discrimination and hate and, of course, promote tolerance. That is how they cope; every line is a quote from their lives.
"It is about being rejected and experiencing racism first hand," said Selami. "In our tracks, we want to share our impression and inspire other minorities that have the same problems. Music is our tool for this."
In the middle of nowhere
The first members of the audience arrive in the small concert hall at Kult41, a cultural center in Bonn. It is a small room without windows and has a small bar with a large selection of drinks. Before the concert, there is a film screening of "Trapped by Law", a documentary about the two brothers. The film, directed by Sami Mustafa, also a Roma, follows the brothers on their odyssey across the Balkans.
Both brothers grew up in the German city of Essen and went to school there until 2010, when they were deported to Kosovo after a fast-track immigration procedure. They were sent to their father's home country, a place with which they were not familiar. Selami, 27, had never been there and his brother Kefaet, 32, had only lived there until he was 4 years old. They had no memories of the place nor did they have a connection with the country and its people.
A forgotten minority
Between January 2012 and September 2016, some 16,000 Kosovar nationals of Roma ethnicity applied for asylum in Germany. During that time period, the ministry of the interior only granted five people refugee status as prescribed in the UN Refugee Convention. In 2015, Kosovo was placed on the list of safe countries of origin. Ever since then, the number of deportations and repatriations has increased many times over.
"In Germany, there is a profound political denial about the situation of the Roma people in all the Balkan countries where they face discrimination," said Bernd Mesovic, from the German refugee rights advocacy organization Pro Asyl. "They have no access to the labor market or the health system. It is more than mere discrimination."
Don't give up
The brothers slept on the streets, in strangers' homes or at friends' places. Swinging from hope to despair, they spent four years, nine months and six days in the Balkans. Their music made them famous in Kosovo and they toured throughout the country. "I didn't know when it would be over, so I savored every moment," said Selami in the film. During that time, the brothers initiated many legal attempts to return to Germany to their families in Essen - in vain.
One day, they just made a decision. "We were naive. We wanted to go back legally. Everyone told us to just cross the border," recalled Kafaet. And that is exactly what they did. Without telling anyone, they walked to Hungary, across Austria and then to Germany. Since their return, both musicians have been helping young people from difficult backgrounds. They dance, rap and talk together. This energy can be felt in the audience at the cultural center. The concert is a success and the sound system works.
Despite their commitment, their status in Germany is still undecided. The brothers live in Essen again. Selami has a short-term residence permit and can be deported at any time. Kefeat has a one-year residence permit.