Thousands of young men from North Africa come to Germany every year and many of them, like Samir, fall afoul of the law. Officials would like to accelerate the deportation process, but the criminals aren’t welcome back home either. By SPIEGEL Staff
The other inmates are still sleeping when Samir, 36, is awakened by the guards. It is 5:30 a.m. on a day in early April, and the sun hasn’t come up yet. He is told to dress quietly before police officers wearing black balaclavas take the Tunisian national into the courtyard of the Dresden correctional facility.
Samir’s brown hair is cut short, and his beard is full. He is wearing a red down vest and jeans. A black Mercedes van is waiting in the courtyard to take him on his last trip through Germany.
They drive to the Leipzig/Halle airport, from which Samir is to be deported. Leipzig has developed into a hub for deportations, with more than 2,100 foreigners flown out of its airport last year.
Germania charter flight ST 2828, which is to take Samir and 16 other deportees to Tunisia, is accompanied by 67 federal police officers, two doctors and an interpreter. The words “Germany Escort” are printed on their cases. The airport’s Terminal A was long used by the US Army as a stopover for soldiers being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, but is now a regular starting point for deportation flights. A group of Tunisians, heavily guarded by the police, are sitting in the waiting area and two blue portable toilets have been set up outside the entrance. Prisoners who need to use the restroom remain handcuffed, with a police officer keeping his foot in the door. When one of the prisoners complains about the handcuffs, an officer gruffly instructs him to “try harder, my good man.”
The officers are especially cautious with Tunisians. Many of the deportees resist or injure themselves to avoid being sent out of the country. There have been cases of detainees swallowing the batteries from their cell phones, while others have stuck razor blades in their mouths or suddenly pulled box cutters from their belts. As a result, three “personal air escorts” are assigned to guard each Tunisian.
Samir is required to undress completely for a full body search. A doctor examines all cavities on the lookout for items the detainee may be attempting to smuggle.