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Germany to Deport EU Citizens


German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich announced Friday that the government would begin deporting poor Bulgarians and Romanians who had moved to the country to take advantage of the generous welfare benefits. According to Spiegel:

The issue was prompted by complaints from German communities claiming that an increasing number of people are arriving from Romania and Bulgaria with the help of organized gangs, obtaining a business license and applying for benefits a few months later under the pretences that the business has been unsuccessful.

Friedrich says that those who are found defrauding social services will be expelled from the country, despite the fact that they are granted the right to work and travel throughout the member states as citizens of the European Union.

While the prospect of Germans deporting immigrants (many of them Roma) reminds us of the dark Nazi past, Germany is far from alone in Europe in struggling with how to respond to impoverished immigrants from new EU member-states. Romanians and Bulgarians are frequently stereotyped in Western Europe as grifters and fraudsters. The Dutch have been debating the same issue, while France has been deporting or bribing Roma to leave the country for years.

These controversies reveal the cracks in the foundation of the elite project to foster a concept of cosmopolitan “Europeaness.” Despite fervent hopes in Brussels that the expansion of the union would create a “United States of Europe,” strong national identities persist, and European immigrants frequently face hostility when they move to other countries.

Perhaps the more troubling issue for many Europeans is the effects of situations like these on national welfare systems. Anti-immigrant sentiment is frequently driven by the perception that foreigners from the east are leeching off Western Europe’s generous welfare systems. Many of these fears are exaggerated, and even strongly tinged with racism, but they persist nonetheless. Considering the budgetary pressures facing many countries already, these fears may lead to a broad scaling-back of the social welfare systems Europe has built up over the past seventy years.

[Impoverished Romanian Roma photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • lukelea

    What’s not to like? Here’s a quote from Steve Erlanger’s story in the NYT a few days ago:

    The complexity and tragedy of the problem are easily seen here in Paris at the Gare du Nord, one of the busiest transportation hubs in France. Near the third glass door from the left of the older building, young Roma men hover. Small, thin, often wearing bright clothing like green pants or a pink scarf, the men are prostitutes, looking for work or waiting for prearranged rendezvous.

    Some are as young as 14, though they insist they are older; some are 16 and married, sometimes with children. They come from a community around Craiova, in south-central Romania. They troll the station to earn a living, which they say gets them about 100 euros a day, or $130.

    A young man named Ruset said he was 19 and had left Romania as a child. He and his friends, like Bogdan, 17, and Gutsa, 17, whose wife is pregnant, “do business” at the station, he said; they live in a shantytown in a forest east of Paris, near the Noisy-Champs station on the suburban railway line. None wanted to have their family names used.

    “France is terrible for us,” Ruset said, watching for the police, whom he called “superracist, hassling us all the time.” Echoing many of France’s estimated 20,000 noncitizen Roma, he said: “I would like to stay in Romania, but there is no chance to work there. France I liked well at the start, but today things are very hard.”

  • Blaton Hardey

    National identity? I don’t think so. It’s fear and administrative incompetence that work into these policies.

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