Mr. Tesla was a Serbian Gypsy Roma

Tesla is deported

"Tesla" - that's what the neighbors call him in his old homeland, in the Roma quarter on the outskirts of the small Serbian town of Mladenovac. Saša Simić owes the nickname, which goes back to a great Serbian-American inventor, to his profession: For decades he worked here with electricity - there was no television that he could not repair. Then came heart disease and muscular dystrophy. "Instead of repairing the televisions, I accidentally dropped them on the floor and destroyed them," says the short 45-year-old. He has received a notice from the Serbian authorities: unable to work. And a bill that he owes the state the equivalent of 10,000 euros for electricity and ancillary costs. What makes him desperate, however, is a word in German that has recently been stamped on his passport: "deported".

The way "to asylum"

Simić could spend hours telling why he packed his things a year ago and set out with his wife, son and daughter. "Going to asylum" - this is what the local Roma call such a trip to Germany. Simić speaks quietly and in detail about discrimination that a teacher repeatedly banned his son from class with the words: "Get away, gypsies!" That Roma live on the fringes of society in Serbia and receive suspicious looks. "For a long time we thought that we would actually get asylum protection in Germany," says Saša Simić, leafing through documents that he also showed the decision maker at the refugee office.

Stamp in Saša Simić's passport: "Pack the essentials"

His wife Daliborka makes no secret of the fact that the family traveled to Germany not least because of the money. They received around 1,100 euros a month as a family - a sum that one in Serbia can only dream of. "When we got the first money, we went to the supermarket. I told the children: choose what you want." Her eyes light up as she talks about her time in the tiny town of Bad Zwesten not far from Kassel: About friendships with other Balkan Roma, Arabs and Africans with whom they lived in the dormitory in the small Hessian town. Daliborka Simić also kept a copy of the local newspaper there. On the last page you can read a small article about good integration, with a group photo with the mayor. The Simics can also be seen on it.

The German authorities decided differently than the family had hoped: their asylum application was rejected. As a result, they should have left Germany in March. The reason why they stayed longer can be seen on Saša Simić's chest: A scar testifies to the heart operation that had to be performed in Germany. In the end, however, the deportation did not prevent this.

Roma functionary Mihajlović: "Discrimination from birth to death"

In mid-October the time had come: at five in the morning the police pounded on the door, says Saša Simić: "We showed them certificates from two different doctors stating that I have a chronic heart condition and that I am not allowed to travel in this condition and that my life is threatened in Serbia because I don't get the treatment I need here. But they said: 'Pack the bare essentials'. "

Safe or "Safe"?

According to Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a total of around 11,000 people have been deported from Germany this year alone. Another 27,000 left voluntarily as part of the so-called "sponsored return". People who are obliged to leave the country then receive, for example, a small amount of start-up capital for starting a business in their home country.

But there are still tens of thousands in the Federal Republic who come from "safe countries of origin" in the Western Balkans, where according to German law there is no persecution. Most of them are ethnic Albanians. And Roma - nine out of ten asylum seekers from Serbia belong to this minority.

Vitomir Mihajlović from the Serbian National Council welcomes the Roma in his office in the center of Belgrade. Behind him hang the tricolor of Serbia and the flag of the Roma: blue for the sky, green for the earth and a red spoked wheel, which is supposed to remind of the Indian descent of the Roma. Some also see the wheel as a symbol that the Roma are nowhere really at home. "The problem of poverty has been around for generations," says the chairman of the National Council. In addition, according to Mihajlović, there is "discrimination from birth to death - in all areas of life: for example in education, on the labor market and in the health system."

That is the reason why many opt for the hopeless asylum search. When there was still a deportation stop in Germany in winter, I would have started the trip again every year to escape the unbearable cold in their tin houses. Mihajlović finds it inhuman that Germany is now preventing this practice: "International conventions that many countries have signed should not allow such deportations - especially in winter," he says. There are even cases where your families have been separated due to deportation.

On the other hand, Germany has received applause from top politicians in the Balkan countries for its new strategy. The Serbian government describes Roma as "false professional asylum seekers", and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic calls on Germany to cut social benefits for asylum seekers altogether.

This is an attempt to blame an ethnic minority alone, says Dragan Popović from the Belgrade NGO Center for Practical Politics. "Like all countries in the region, Serbia tries to present itself as best as possible in Brussels and to send the signal that the country is not a source of asylum seekers - although it is, because of the economic situation."

Daliborka and Saša Simić in their house in Mladenovac: deportation at five in the morning

The way back

Most of the returnees simply come back home. The Serbian Refugee Office is responsible for the others who have no home. Nobody there has time for an interview - because of the refugee crisis "all hell is going on there". This means the flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, i.e. the thousands of people who cross Serbia every day to get to the European Union.

On the other hand, deportations from Germany have been routine for the Serbian authorities for years. A reintegration strategy has been adopted, according to the refugee commissioner's office in an earlier statement.

However, the returnees Saša Simić has not noticed anything about this reintegration. He walks through the dusty streets of the Roma quarter of Mladenovac and shows the houses there: they are megalomaniac and kitschy, adorned with lions and eagles made of plaster - silent witnesses of the golden times for Yugoslav guest workers in the west, as well as the barely educated ones there got well paying job. Simić also owns a three-story house with a pink facade, which his father gave him as a child. But inside there are only two modest rooms suitable for living. The rest are still under construction. Simić does not have the money for it. He fetches water from a well and illegally connected the house to the electricity grid.

A Roma settlement in Belgrade: silent witnesses to golden times

His 17-year-old son Aleksandar is trying to get back into the Serbian school system. But he doesn't really feel like starting over in his home town. "In Germany everything was nice, the people were nice," he says in almost accent-free German. He would love to go back there to find a job and live on his own money.

Aleksandar's father has also thought about starting a second attempt. "But my state of health keeps me from doing it. I have the stamp in my passport, which means I cannot enter legally. So I would have to join the Syrians," says Saša Simić. "But they run through forests and fields - and I can't do that."