TEXT AND IMAGES BY DENNIS SCHÜPF @dennisfotografiert
Documenntary photographer and environmental justice researcher
"Abgeschoben" means deported in German. This place is a classical example of environmental racism. Yet an area very difficult to take pictures of due to the exposure of the people. I met a girl in this camp that used to live in Germany. It has been intense to understand where people are deported back to. Mostly, it is places that are well below the average of normal living standard in the respective society.
- Dennis -
Deported ("Abgeschoben") back to safe country of origin? Roma in the Konik Camp, Montenegro
Zafira, 14 years old, speaks German fluently. She went to school in Germany for seven years. Her family belongs to the Roma community of Kosovo and left the country during civil war
back in 1999. With the conflict being more and more settled, the region has been regarded as a safe country of origin by the German state. For this reason, Zafira, her younger sisters and her parents were deported back to Montenegro where most Kosovo-Albanians with Roma origin live, namely in the Konik Camp at the outskirts of the capital Podgorica.
Zafira points her passport with the stemp "Abgeschoben" / Deported. Together with other family members from one day to the other she has been pushed into the poverty plagued Konik Camp.
After 1999, the Montenegrin government placed the Roma refugees to live in barracks surrounded by a landfill. The refugee camp was the largest of its kind with more than 2000 Roma situated near the garbage dump. People live in makeshift shacks built from scarps of wood and rubbish with hardly any sanitation facilities. Most residents make money with whatever material can be collected: metal, damaged cars or rubbish dump. Many have no ID cards which would allow them to purchase work. While the European Union condemns the camp conditions as being inhumane and hazardous, far from enough action is undertaken to deal with such kind of environmental racism. In the year 2012, a fire and subsequent flood even
left 800 refugees homeless.
This photographic series stems from a site visit in 2022 with the aim to expose environmental racism in the context of failed migration policies. In particular, the Konik camp unpacks the “black box” of the site actually look like to which people are forced to be deported. Against the prevailing assumption that safe countries of origin guarantee safe living conditions, this series proofs the opposite by looking into hazardous lived environments of marginalized communities.