Deportations make people sick

On International Day of Human Rights, we criticize deportations as violations of human rights and violation the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. We want to raise awareness of the issue and wake up the authorities. Because...

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 3, Right to Freedom and Life
Everyone has the right to life, freedom and security of the person.

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: Article 35 Health protection
Everyone has the right to access to preventive health care and medical care in accordance with national law and practice. A high level of health protection is ensured in defining and implementing Union policies and measures in all areas.

Basic Law Germany: Article 1 Human dignity
(1) Human dignity is inviolable. Respecting and protecting them is an obligation of all state violence. (2) The German people are therefore committed to inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of all human community, peace and justice in the world.

Gesundheitliche Auswirkungen von Abschiebungen

Deportations are a serious intervention in the health of those affected and usually also in their environment. Every deportation is violence, legitimized by the state.

Few people are aware of this fact in everyday life. We got used to the mostly small, scrawny news in our media: "Last night, the XY family or the rejected asylum seeker Z. was picked up by the police and taken back to their country by plane." The individual dramas, injuries, suffering, and deep despair that this act of state violence leaves, is nowhere recorded or studies made. Those affected must bear the consequences themselves.

Painful numbers

In 2018 there were approx. 24,000 deportations, approx. 40% in the Dublin procedure, e.g. to Italy, where the deportees mostly have to live from hand to mouth on the street, are exposed to unprotected violence (especially women) and generally do not receive any health treatment; or to Albania, the poor country of Europe, where they are mostly exposed to discrimination and an existential crisis; or also to the dangerous war country of Afghanistan, where they could fall into a deadly trap (756 people have been deported since 2016).

The few statistics and numbers only describe the tip of the iceberg. The Berlin Anti-Racist Initiative used official newspaper reports between 1993 and 2018 to determine the following. (From the press release of the anti-racist initiative in June 2019) These are "only" the fatal consequences of an alleged rule of law that has become known.

288 refugees killed themselves in the face of impending deportation or died trying to flee the deportation, including 83 people in detention.
3,015 refugees injured themselves because of fear of deportation or in protest against the impending deportation or tried to kill themselves, of which 837 were in detention centres.
5 refugees died during this period during the deportation (from suffocation due to fixed bondage).
556 refugees were injured due to coercive measures or ill-treatment during the deportation.
38 refugees died in their country of origin after being deported.
In the country of origin, 621 refugees were ill-treated and tortured by the police or military, and were at risk of life or serious illness due to their serious illnesses.
75 refugees disappeared without a trace after being deported.

Return with uncertain consequences

We know even less about the fate of those who have returned and what health and social effects they will have to bear in the long term. A recent study by Ms. Friederike Stahlmann on deported Afghans (Asylmagazin 8 -9/2019 pp. 276 -286) came to frightening results: 90% of the fates examined, who have been in Afghanistan for more than 2 months, have already experienced massive Violence (torture, ill-treatment, beatings, psychological threats, attacks), most of it as punishment by Islamists for their flight to the “western enemy”. Half of the people examined had already fled abroad again, which poses a great risk of uprooting, homelessness and identity disorder.

Individual examples from our own investigation repeatedly testify to the traumatic effects of deportation, which often go dramatically unnoticed by the public at night.

“I still remember a woman who, with her family, was surprisingly deported from treatment to Turkey, because of a state of excitement in front of her children while in flight, and after 4 weeks in a follow-up examination in Istanbul, the numerous hematomas on the body were seen. This woman was unable to go out of the house for more than a year and could not even begin to fulfill her role as a mother of three, ” reports an activist and doctor.

Traumatized refugees are particularly at risk of being exposed to physical violence once again with such deportation measures. A year ago e.g. a rejected asylum seeker who had been ill-treated by criminal extortioners in his home country and was afraid of becoming violent if the police took him, was tied up preventively and with an eye patch (to temporarily blind him) in deportation custody over 100 km away.

A survey of young refugees deported from Kosovo by the Bavarian Refugee Council showed a high rate of failed livelihoods, school failure, uprooting, identity disorder, resignation, depression and developmental disorders. Many continued to suffer from the dramatic memories of the deportation process for months.

"Even with successfully terminated deportation attempts, I regularly found acute stress reactions (F 43.0 according to ICD 10). Severe dissociative conditions, nightmares, massive fear reactions often had to be treated for months.

I am currently accompanying a 50-year-old man from Togo who, after many years and good integration and being mentally and physically completely healthy, should one day be surprisingly picked up by the police from his apartment for deportation to Togo. In a dissociative state (not with suicidal intent) he jumped over the balcony and suffered a severe pelvic ring fracture. Today, after 2 years, he is still not painless and has to use crutches. The monthly extension of his toleration regularly led to insomnia and anxiety, and the extension to three months did not lead to any relief so far, but his thoughts constantly revolved around the possibility of forced return and staying here. His psychological state has stabilized only slightly despite psychotherapy. He is still unable to work. "

Retraumatisation through deportation

Deportations of traumatized, mentally ill and disabled people are particularly dramatic. After a feeling of security that is often painstakingly acquired, the ground is pulled out from under them again and they suddenly experience helplessness, fainting and hopelessness again, which in turn cause the old traumatic scars to break open and the reactions to the traumatic situation to occur again. Such retraumatisations often lead to a loss of trust and a feeling of insecurity that has existed for years, even when they have finally been given a safe stay.

The target is everybody

Deportations also have a devastating effect on people who are “only” witnesses to these coercive measures, even if they are not personally affected at all. Particularly vulnerable refugees who, after persecution, strenuous flight and frequent threats to their livelihood in refugee camps, witness these mostly nightly robbery measures. children or people who have no safe status themselves (e.g. Duldung, persons obliged to leave) see such deportations of neighbors or acquaintances.

"When I came to the psychosocial treatment center and some of my clients were waiting for me unannounced, I knew exactly that they had been deported back to their facility during the night.” -  a psychological councellor is telling his experiance.

Anyone who accompanies people with an unsafe residence status (e.g. Duldung) for a long time will experience again and again how dramatic the nights are for them. Every time a car makes a sound, they startle, rush to the window and stare for a long time to see if they are not seeing a police car. You cannot go back to sleep for hours and are completely tired during the day. After months, such people - even if they are not deported - are worn down, unable to act and become unable to work. This puts them in even greater uncertainty and hopelessness, with the risk of losing the last bit of hope for a safe stay in their panic. Some then become paradoxical actions, such as to flee to another European country, even if it hurts them even more.

In any case, deportation always means stress, sometimes with an extreme vegetative reaction. If the stay is endangered or at least unsafe over a longer period of time, there is usually an excessive increase in blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and / or a metabolic syndrome. After a dramatic deportation from Rheinland-Pfalz to Kosovo, the 40-year-old mother of a larger Roma family from Kosovo suffered such a massive brain hemorrhage after a hypertensive crisis shortly after the deportation that she died of it. The connection with the deportation was obvious, but hardly verifiable. Nevertheless, the authorities had a look after a support campaign and allowed the rest of the family to enter with several school children.


In desperation to lose the last hope for a secure existence in Germany or another European country, quite a few people become suicidal. Nevertheless, there are still relatively few people who are more grateful to convert their despair and depression into such an act of suicide. But you shouldn't overlook how many authorities or politicians overlook the fact that many of these people suffer from constant insecurity and later tend to change their personality.

Children and adolescents

The suffering of children and adolescents after deportation is particularly often misunderstood. They usually suffer silently, they often act strong and unimpressed, especially when their parents react particularly helplessly to the precarious situation. However, their parentification is then reflected in later years, e.g. in puberty or as young adults, they either become very hyperactive, give up any responsibility, react with resignation, destructive, self-damaging behavior, become drug addicts or become significantly depressed. Some also react with a delayed trauma reaction or even develop a post-traumatic stress disorder. Children can rarely get help and support early on; you have to actively approach them before they can open up to an adult.

Human dignity

In many cases of deportation, Article 1 of our Basic Law is violated in favor of an abstract conformity with the rules. "Human dignity is inviolable. Respecting and protecting them is the obligation of all state violence. "

As people in an open democratic civil society, we have to keep defending this obligation. It is important to prevent such acts of violence by state organs as preventively as possible, if necessary also with a rule violation.

Healthcare workers have a growing responsibility to face the recent tightening of laws. The authorities are ruling out more and more options to bring the health of those affected to bear as an obstacle to deportation.

Under no circumstances should we accept the current tightened deportation practice in silence, but rather vigorously combat it.

Image: Bildwerk Rostock. Refugees around documented how a man passed out during a deportation. Summer 2018.