ERRC Sues Denmark Regarding Forced Expulsions of Kosovo Roma

European Roma Rights Center Legal Action Concerning Expulsion of Roma from Denmark

May 9, 2003

The European Roma Rights Center today filed an urgent request to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to stop Denmark from implementing measures to expel a Kosovo Romani family, including three minor children, back to Kosovo. The applicants fled their home in Prizren, Kosovo in August 1999, following physical attacks by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their home, who accused them of having assisted the Serbs in the "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo Albanians. The family made an attempt in May 2001 to return to Kosovo, but were forced to flee again by stone-throwing neighbors. They applied for refugee status in Denmark.

The family's request for refugee status was rejected by the Danish Refugee Board on April 14, 2003. On that same date, their attorney filed an application for permission to stay on humanitarian grounds. As of May 9, 2003, that application was still pending. Despite this, the Danish police on April 29, 2003, sent a letter giving the applicants to May 15 to "voluntarily" leave the country and receive financial assistance or face forced expulsion and possible detention. ERRC has received credible reports that numerous refugees from the former Yugoslavia received the same letter from the Danish police, despite extensive evidence of the life-threatening situation faced by many Kosovo Romani returnees. The application alleges that tens of thousands of displaced Roma currently live in conditions of utter destitution and extreme poverty in the rest of Serbia and Montenegro, frequently squatting in extremely substandard conditions under bridges or elsewhere in the open because such arrangements are apparently preferable to a return to Kosovo.

The Strasbourg application relies on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and argues that the forced return of this family to Kosovo would subject them to violence, a lack of adequate housing, medical care and employment opportunities, and abject poverty. It cites numerous alarming reports prepared by international human rights organizations, including a recent April 2003 report prepared by Amnesty International documenting numerous disappearances and abduction, attacks and threats directed against Roma returnees in Kosovo as well as severe denial of freedom of movement and access to health care. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a January 2003 report stated, "Members of non-ethnic Albanian minorities originating from Kosovo continue to face security threats, which place their lives and fundamental freedoms at risk. [.] Significantly, security threats can be severe (grenade attacks, physical assault) among the Roma [.] throughout Kosovo."

Commenting on the threatened expulsion, ERRC Legal Director Gloria Jean Garland said: "Denmark has in the past year become a leader among those European states seeking to expel foreigners or otherwise exert pressure on such persons to leave Denmark, regardless of the conditions such persons may face upon return to their country-of-origin. Danish policies in this area call seriously into question the government's commitment to upholding international human rights standards."



The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201

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