Removal without paperwork: The future of deportations

Any papers as required: the EU is increasingly pushing countries to leave Africa from a country other than their country of origin.

Ein Flugzeug am Himmel

Where the rejected asylum seeker is sent can depend on an official's mood Foto: dpa

They knocked at his door at three o'clock in the morning. It was a Tuesday in October 2013. Two policemen came to the apartment of Joseph Koroma at Heilbronner Straße 2 in Waldheim. He was now deported to Nigeria, one of the officials said. Let him pack his suitcase. Since 2006, the rejected asylum seeder lives in Germany. He was never in Nigeria.

He panicked, „I was beside myself,“ he says of the day. He should calm down, the police say. Grab the things he needs most. „I can not go to Nigeria. I'm from Sierra Leone, „said Koroma. They had their instructions, the officials said. Koroma has to leave behind everything that does not fit into his backpack, the policemen bring him to the immigration office. He was held there for three hours, his German papers confiscated. His lawyer does not answer the phone.

Koroma sees from the rear seat of a patrol car as the sun rises. At nine o'clock he arrived at the Frankfurt airport. When his lawyer finally picked up the phone, he told him that the Embassy of Nigeria had issued a travel document for Koroma, which does not have a passport.

This story is about the means by which authorities sometimes intervene. It is about two men who did not want to take them away from the country. It deals with the past and the future of deportation.

Coming from the Civil War

Koroma was one of 33,003 people who had registered the Federal Ministry of the Interior in 2012 as a „direct departure“. But only about one in six of them could actually be deported in those years. This was the complaint of „AG Rück“, a working group of federal and state governments involved in deportations. It listed 25 reasons why deportations were so difficult. On the top of the list: „Pass (replacement paper) procurement“. In second place, „Cooperative behavior of the countries of origin“. So, as with Joseph Koroma.

In May 2006 he reached Germany, he was 42 years old. From 1991 to 2002 there was civil war in Sierra Leone. Up to 300,000 people have been killed, 2.6 million displaced. But when Koroma arrives in Germany, the war is over. After five months, his application for asylum is rejected, in 2008 the decision becomes final. The Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe, Department eight – aliens – shows him. But Joseph Koroma does not have a passport.

In 2006, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) was furiously mourning several diplomats, because 29 embassies, which Steinmeier's ministry led on a secret „list of problems“, made difficulties with deportations. On this list: Sierra Leone.


Joseph Koromas passion is table tennis. As a young boy, he started with a young man as a „star,“ says Koroma, who now lives on the first floor of a house in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Walls and floor are unplastered, dusty, the roof is supported with wood, the room dark, on the floor stands a large pot on glimmering wooden boards.

Vor „dramatischer“ Migration aus Afrika warnt die deutsche Regierung, von einem „Marshallplan“ ist die Rede. Doch die Milliardensummen, die Europa in Afrika ausgeben will, dienen nicht nur dem Kampf gegen Armut. Erklärtes Ziel der neuen EU-Afrikapolitik ist es, Flüchtlinge und Migranten schon tief im Innern des Kontintents aufzuhalten. Die taz berichtet seit Mitte November in einem Rechercheschwerpunkt darüber, zu finden unter

Die Recherche wurde gefördert von Fleiß und Mut e. V. (cja)

In Sierra Leone's up-and-coming table tennis scene, later he became a nationaltrainer. In Kornwestheim Koroma searched the Internet for a club and found the „SV Salamander Kornwestheim 1894 e.V.“. This „changed his life more strongly than I can express,“ says Koroma. He is a tall man with bald, calm voice, his English heavily West African colored.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote articles about how he took his team in front of players from Steinheim, Kleinsachsenheim and Bietigheim-Bissingen. „They were my best friends, it was an honor for me to compete with them.“ Koroma takes a framed photo of his team, shows it, looks at it himself, puts it in his lap before he goes on. „If you're looking for asylum, they do not allow you to work, but the sponsor of this club,“ the salamander shoe factory, „even went to the immigration office to ask if he was going to employ me.“ The club paid the school fees for Koromas son in Freetown. „If I had a problem they would help me without hesitation.“ For six seasons, Josef played for the club.

Petulant messages

The government presidium Karlsruhe has it presented at the Embassy of Sierra Leone in 2011. He did not want a passport and he did not get it. Re AG has made a list of why deportations often fail at the embassies. Some passports are issued only if the person agrees. Koromo did not want to. They would protect their citizens from the German authorities, writes the reinsurance company, that there is corruption, arbitrariness, a lack of „political interest in repatriation“, some countries wanted to even push Germany's concessions or money.

In order to circumvent the disgusting messages, the federal police had in the previous years repeatedly had the idea of letting officials from West African states fly in extra. In 2008 such officials came from Freetown to Hamburg. The Süddeutsche Zeitung later found out that these 250 euros per deportation paper got a „daily flat rate“ of 200 euros plus expenses; The federal police invited them to the HSV game and even made the sierra-leonian service stamp of officials who had been sent without the emblems for 63.50 euros at a key service.

Contrary to the Embassy, this „delegation“ presented a deportation paper to two-thirds of all rejected asylum seekers, whom the federal police presented to them. For a foreigners authority and federal police a bombing success, they could dozens of old cases in one fell swoop. In the media and in court, on the other hand, the matter did not work well. It smelt too much of corruption. After a while, the Federal Police intervened.

Africa is big

The Regierungspräsidium in Karlsruhe could not deport Joseph Koroma, who had to leave immediately, because he had no pass for him. But the officials are not discouraged. Koroma is from Afrika And that is great. It does not just consist of Sierra Leone.

On the morning of April 10, 2012, they take Joseph Koroma in his home and take him to Karlsruhe. There is a so-called delegation of the Nigerian Embassy in Berlin. It is to examine whether it is not possible that Joseph Koroma is from Nigeria. Koroma said he would sue if he was made a Nigerian. The messengers sent him and the officers away. But the aliens' authority was not to be misled. On June 25th, 2013, she took Koroma again in his apartment, took him back to Karlsruhe. Dieselbe „Delegation“ of the Embassy from Berlin was there. This time they were: Koroma was Nigerian.

He sits five months later at the Federal Police at Frankfurt / Main Airport and is waiting for the entry into the deportation aircraft. He can keep his phone. „My lawyer said he would now write letters to the court and the aliens office,“ says Koroma. „That was the last time we spoke.“ At 11:10, the Lufthansa flight LH 568 started to Lagos / Nigeria. On board: Joseph Koroma.

Travel money from friends in Germany

In Lagos, policemen bring him to officials of the Immigration Agency NIS. Koroma tells them that he is not a Nigerian, knew anyone in the country and did not know where to go. Soon afterwards, a man from Togo, who lives in a suburb of Lagos, came to the station. He wanted to pick up Koroma. It is the brother of a friend of Koroma from Kornwestheim. There had been rumbling over the course of the day, what had happened. The friend had asked his brother to take Koroma with him.

A month Koroma stays with the man, the apartment he hardly leaves. Most of the time he sits in front of the computer, writes mails, telephoned, with his family in Sierra Leone, with his table tennis buddies in Kornwestheim. After Freetown it is 2,500 kilometers from Lagos, the bus goes through the area of Rebellenarmeen. The flight costs several hundred euros and Koroma has nothing. A month later, money comes to Western Union for him. His friends in Kornwestheim had collected it.

„Joseph is not a Nigerian man or a bad man. But we were very ashamed of what happened to him, „said Mariama, his wife. When Koroma gets off the plane in Freetown in November 2013, he is grateful to his friends in Germany for letting him come to his family. But it was no longer the country he'd left seven years before. At that time Joseph was working in a small mine in the east of the country. What he could save, the family invested in his trip to Europe. Now he was looking for hard work, but he did not find any. Soon after, the Ebola plague breaks out. The family is spared from the epidemic, not from the subsequent economic crisis. The money that his friends had collected was not long enough for the small apartment.

Table tennis and life support

The relation to kinship had „completely changed“ after he returned, says Mariama. „If you were out in the world and deported, it's a shame. They despise you instead of giving you a helping hand. „People would say,“ This man did not take any trouble when he was in Europe, but they do not understand how things work there.“

Koromo is unemployed, the family threatens to evacuate her son Emmanuel is 17 years old. „It is a gift from God that he is smart enough to go to the university next year,“ says Mariama. But this will probably not be the case. The entrance exam costs nearly 200 dollars, in Sierra Leone average wage is under two dollars a day. There is no one to help the Koromas.

So the son spends time just like his father: With table tennis. Josef earns some money by training youth and national teams. Soon he wants to organize with his son a training camp for young people. They are supposed to have possibilities which he himself did not have. „If my friends in Germany taught me something, then that you should always help people if you can,“ said Joseph. „This is how the world works better.“

Money for deportation papers

A man whom Germany sends into a country from which he does not come. Joseph Koroma is not the only case of this kind. But it is one of the few that are documented. This was caused by the activist Rex Osa from Stuttgart, who was from Nigeria. He left Koroma shortly after his deportation to Sierra Leone, collected his testimony and the similar cases in which deported refugees suddenly became Nigerians.

The Embassy of Nigeria in Berlin had set official fees: 250 euro should be paid to immigration authorities per hearing since 2005. But there was the suspicion in the room, that with the deportation papers a business is made. The criticism grew; here, too, it smelled of corruption. In 2011, the Embassy thus officially charges the fees. The activist Osa, however, is certain: The embassy workers have stopped the hand, and in the case of Koroma, twice. That is why they had twice invited to Karlsruhe. „This is an absolutely corrupt system. They're doing a deal with deportations.“

In 2015 the Berlin journalist Daniel Mützel asked the federal police responsible for the deportation of Koromoa whether this could be true. Whether the federal police had offered incentives for Koroma and others to be made a Nigerian in order to be able to deport them. The response of the Federal Police Office in Potsdam: „No incentives are offered by the Federal Police. With regard to the motivation of the embassy, no statement can be made from here.“

An ordeal

Did Koroma now tell the truth? Is he actually from Sierra Leone? It looks like this. The authorities in Freetown, on the other hand, issue a passport with the number E0143344 on 6 November 2013 shortly after his arrival. It says that he was born in Freetown on December 7, 1964, as he told the authorities in Germany. When activist Osa visited Freetown in 2014, he met him with his family, as did the taz in November 2016.

That Koroma and a number of other deportees landed in Nigeria, it has come because many consulates do not cooperate with the German foreigners authorities and another already. For whatever reason. It is a dubious approach, expensive, tedious, lengthy. For the person concerned an ordeal.

That was the past. For, as it happens, the foreigners‘ authorities are no longer dependent on such cooperation. The future of deportation could be a different one.

They could soon do it like Arne Sahlstedt, inspector at the police in Gävle, Central Sweden, 70,000 inhabitants, two car ports north of Stockholm. Sahlstedt also had to pass a man who did not have a passport. His name is Fulani Camara, 29 years old, from Mali, orphan.

Assigned nationality

The aliens authority of Gävle had pointed out Camara, after his asylum petition had been rejected. As happened in Swabia with Joseph Koroma. Even Camara did not go out, even the embassy of Mali in Stockholm did not make a pass for him. Why not, the police in Gävle on taz request does not want to say. „Privacy,“ it says. Probably also Mali is on the „problem list“.

What people like Sahlstedt should do in such cases, there has been a decree in Sweden for two years. It bears the designation RPSFS 2014: 8 FAP 638-1, which states that Sahlstedt can also issue a travel document himself if the message does not. It is a simple DIN A4 sheet, the flag of the EU is printed at the top, Sahlstedt only has to enter the name, the body size, the Swedish registration number, the date of birth and the „presumed nationality“. In the case of Camara, Sahlstedt was wearing „Mali“. On 24 October this year Sahlstedt stamped and signed the paper. Three days later, Fulani sat in the plane.

On this day the phone of Ousmane Diarra rang in Mali's capital Bamako. He is an activist of the Malaysian Association of Deportees (AME). For years, he has been driving to the airport when the only direct flight from Paris arrives at 7:15 pm, with people sitting in their homes somewhere in Europe on the morning of the day because they lost their bathing suit. Most do not know where, the least have money, and so the people at the airport are glad when the AME cares. That's why they call him, when deportees get off the plane.

Diarra then waits in front of the office of the airport police, then takes them to the office of the AME. A place to sleep for the first night, a meal, much more Diarra can not offer the people. But every time he asked them about the circumstances of the deportation. Thousands of such stories may have belonged to Diarra. But Camara's case was special.

Because the sheet of paper with the EU flag that the Swedish police inspector Sahlstedt had signed – officially, Malian authorities do not recognize it at all. As early as 1994, the EU issued a „recommendation“ for the use of such a deportation paper. The problem of uncooperative messages is old. But so far, with the exception of the island state of Cape Verde, all the countries of Africa have refused officially to accept these papers. On the one hand, this would be perceived as a betrayal of one's own people. On the other hand, according to the reading, the embassies lose the possibility of checking whether someone is actually a citizen of the respective country – or even to stop the hand, in order to earn some money with the deportations. Unofficially, however, there have been individual cases in the past in which these „EU Laissez Passers“ were applied.

Migration as profit

Diarra asked Fulani Camara to stay a few days. On 5 November this year the AME celebrated its 20th birthday. She had rented the National Museum of Bamako, between the football stadium and the town hall, for this day. It was an important day for her. Mali is a country whose inhabitants traditionally go to work elsewhere, most of them to other countries of West Africa, some to Europe. For a long time the country has had its own ministry for the Malians abroad. And since this has existed, it is under pressure: Above all, France wants many Malians to deport. The government does not think much of it.

In an internal strategy paper, the EU Commission described the situation in January 2016: The views on migration between the EU and Mali „do not coincide“. Migration „culturally as a success model“, which „takes account of the economic importance of transfers“. Mali's government even regards irregular migration as a „resource“. And therefore against a readmission agreement with the EU.

On the occasion of her birthday, the AME invited the high-ranking official, Broulaye Keïta, to the title of „Consultant to the Minister“. She wanted to talk with him about how the government was dealing with the growing pressure from Europe. They wanted to know how they are part of the deportation agreements for which the EU states such as Mali currently offer hundreds of millions of euros. And it should be said that Europe will be able to issue deportation papers in the future.

Present at the celebration was the filmmaker Hans-Georg Eberl from Vienna. He reports that Keïta said the government is holding onto her line. Without a malpass no deportation to May. There would not be anything else. Diarra had scanned Camara's note, now he threw the picture of the note from the Swedish authorities before the assembled guests with a projector on the screen. He did not know anything about it, said Keïta. The „Haute Conseil“, the High Council of its ministry, would initiate an investigation into the case.

Buy a change of mood

Keïta may have said the untruth. Only three days after the celebration, a delegation from the EU in Bamako landed: Italy's Foreign Minister and future Prime Minister Paolo Gentolini, State Secretary Dominico Manzione and Commissioner for the European Commission, Franc Lucani. They met the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. „The exchange was mainly focused on issues of migration,“ the EU said.

In 2004, 5,495 males were requested to leave the EU, 610 were deported – a rate of 11.1 percent. Since the African Union and EU Summit in Valletta in November 2015, the EU's highest priority has been to increase this rate. Mali alone offered it for the first 145 million euros and for the next few years probably even more – if there is „concrete and measurable results in the rapid operational return of irregular migrants“, as it is called in a Ratspapier.

The EU has also negotiated such agreements with Senegal, Nigeria, Niger and Ethiopia for months. It would be the end of the worries of the AG Re. What happened with Joseph Koroma can then flourish for every African. Countries such as Germany or Sweden are no longer dependent on incalculable, sometimes corrupt, messages. In principle, they can deport any refugee where the papers are recognized – no matter where the person actually comes from.

The competent European External Action Service of the EU Commission does not reveal which criteria must be fulfilled in order for such a paper to be issued. The authorities are likely to have a free hand. So there could be many people like Joseph Koroma, where the police knock at the door to take them to a foreign country.

Collaboration: Daniel Mützel (Berlin), Reinhard Wolff (Stockholm), Hans-Georg Eberl (Bamako)

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