'We need a well-thought-out immigration law'
Asylum-seekers who arrive in Alzey in Rhineland-Palatinate eventually end up coming to Café Asyl, an initiative funded by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) that assists migrants in dealing with German authorities. Joachim Schuh, a church minister who works here, is not aware of the Sali family's predicament. But after learning about the details, he is aghast. "Until recently, Alzey's foreigners' registration office would never have separated a family."
Schuh stresses that the Sali family faces an uncertain future in Kosovo. He says the authorities there will not help the returnees but leave them to fend for themselves entirely. What is more, people who voluntarily leave Germany within the first year receive some money to do so. But those who are deported against their will, like the Sali family, get nothing.
"What we need is a well-thought-out immigration law that also addresses the problems forcing people to flee their homelands," says Schuh. He thinks leaving subordinate state departments to deport and thereby harm individuals is inappropriate. "I hope that the deportation of the Sali family was a mistake and that nothing similar will ever happen again as long as I remain a minister here."
'Kosovo not a safe country of origin'
"Forcefully separating a family like that is a no-go," criticizes lawyer Reinhard Kirpes. He highlights that doing so is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights. Kirpes, who is based in the southern German city of Offenburg, knows many similar cases and has specialized in those from Kosovo. He visited the region in 1999 immediately after the cessation of hostilities.
Now, he travels there at least once a year. Reinhard Kirpes devotes his energy to helping people from Kosovo, who are often traumatized, to fight for a German residence permit on humanitarian grounds. But, he admits, securing such a permit is getting harder. He says that in light of Germany's new tough stance on asylum-seekers, he is not surprised by the plight of the Sali family. "Twenty or maybe 10 years ago, Germany was much more humane, but these days things have become much harsher, not just since [German Interior Minister] Horst Seehofer took office."
In early 2015, German authorities declared Kosovo a safe country of origin — implying that individuals need not fear political persecution there. "Of course, there is no political persecution in Kosovo like during the 1990s," concedes Kirpes. "But Kosovo certainly is not a safe country of origin for Sinti, Roma and homosexuals." Even so, few people from Kosovo have a realistic chance of being granted a residence permit in Germany. Most are deemed economic migrants.
Last year, merely 9,222 people from Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro applied for asylum in Germany — one-tenth the number of applications in 2015. Of these, only 264 applications were successful. "Those who arrived in Germany after August 31, 2015, and apply for asylum have zero chance of being successful — only those who came before them might manage," Reinhard Kirpes says. He is certain Germany will not soften its stance on deportations any time soon. "I would be happy just see the status quo remain in place."