A woman from Kosovo recovers in a German hospital after attempting suicide. Meanwhile, her entire family is deported from Germany. How could this happen? Oliver Pieper went to find out.
In 2015, when large numbers of refugees streamed into Germany, many received them with open arms. But Germany's much-vaunted "culture of welcome" appears to be a thing of the past. Now, calls to swiftly deport those whose asylum applications have been rejected are getting louder. Municipalities are seemingly succumbing to the pressure and increasing the number of forced repatriations.
Oliver Pieper traced the story of a family from Kosovo that was recently deported from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in western Germany. He talked to a volunteer who helps asylum-seekers, a Protestant minister, a psychotherapist, lawyers and the district authority in charge of the case.
The day the Sali family was separated
Merita Sali is desperate. She, her husband and their four children are to be deported back to their home country of Kosovo in the coming days. On the night of July 15, she attempts suicide by taking 20 pills of the antidepressant drug Mirtazapine — 10 times the recommended dose. She survives because her stomach is pumped at Worms hospital. It was not her first suicide attempt: The 39-year-old had already tried to take her own life back in her native Kosovo.
Then, one night later, as Merita Sali is still lying in hospital recovering from her suicide attempt, German police officers take her husband Hysret Sali (46) — who had in the past suffered torture in Kosovo — their twins Ejup and Edona (both 15), son Edon (11) and daughter Jehona (3) to the airport and deport them to Kosovo.
When Merita Sali is released from hospital, she, too, will face deportation. She and her family belong to the ethnic minority of the Ashkali. In 2014, the Sali family illegally migrated to Germany where they were granted temporary suspension of deportation status.
Read more: How Germany's deportations system works
'Never witnessed such inhumane treatment'
Aleksandar Ceh knows too well what the Sali family must be going through. Ceh, a native Croatian, fled to Germany in the early 1990s after fighting for his country. He, too, was repeatedly given temporary suspensions of deportation status. Now, he spends his time assisting migrants who find themselves in a similar situation and helps them integrate into German society. For people like the Sali family, Ceh is the last hope.
"I have been helping refugees for 16 years but I have never witnessed such inhumane treatment before," Ceh says. He tried everything he could to prevent the Sali family being deported. He got certificates from doctors and psychotherapists, informed a special commission with the power to cancel deportations on humanitarian or moral grounds and engaged lawyers. He even called the foreigners' registration office on the very night of the deportation. But to no avail.
The Sali family, minus the mother, now live a shed in Kosovo. The 3-year-old daughter, Jehona, who suffers from a heart defect, is ill. Aleksandar Ceh and Hysret Sali are in touch every day. And Ceh has checked in on Merita Sali, who is still recovering in a German hospital. Ceh does not know what else he can do to help the family. But for him, giving up is no option. "You cannot simply abandon these people." He does not understand why the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which is governed by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), has shown so little compassion for the Sali family. "You would think Bavarian authorities are tough when it comes to deportations," he says. "But apparently Rhineland-Palatinate is much stricter."