Another article in the Huffington Post today about Roma refugees and Canada. We seem to have become the subject of choice for many of the articles published on the Huff pages as though all this discussion is actually going to do anything. However, this article is definitely worth reading as it brings up many points I have briefly discussed before, such as the fact that the new 30-day limit for application preparation does not allow time to document previous persecution or find counsel with a lawyer, and the fact that Mr. Kenney erroneously states that Roma should seek refuge within Europe – even though the Dublin Regulation (adopted almost 10 years ago, in 2003) prevents EU citizens claiming refuge in any other EU member state.
Therefore, there is almost literally no where for us to go. Canada has slammed it’s doors now, and the US is notoriously difficult to gain entry to (I know, I have been through the process. The first time I flew here (in February 2001) I was immediately sent to immigration, my passport flagged, and my belongings thoroughly searched. I don’t know why… perhaps I have always been flagged as a “Gypsy”. However, I waited in a room with 8 men, none of whom spoke English and were clearly only in there because of their Middle Eastern origins. After the four hour ordeal I was let go with admonitions to “behave yourself or you’re out”. After I met my husband it took us over a year (I know this is fast in comparison with many other immigrants for whom a decade is not unusual) and over $5000 to get my Green Card. I am still harassed in the airport).
Mr. Kenney’s repeated claims that Roma refugees are “bogus” and “criminal” is a political rhetoric I despise.
“The rising number of bogus requests from democratic states of the European Union just makes this problem worse.” Kenney first used the term “bogus” in 2009 to describe Roma claimants and has favoured it ever since. He inspired the Toronto Sun to run this headline on October 27, 2011: “Feds vow crackdown as Pearson flooded with bogus Hungarian Roma claims.”
No other ethnicity are as openly and shamelessly discriminated against as the Roma. People ogle over disgustingly misrepresentative TV shows, such as “My Big Fat (American) Gypsy Wedding” and “American Gypsies”, while at the same time longing for the “freedom” and “liberty” that our perceived stereotypical life affords (“I want to be a Gypsy, living in a caravan with no bills and no job!”). I have even heard many people say that “Gypsies died out” and that these “evil Roma” are just “fake thieving knock-offs”.
I don’t know how to fight this anymore. If there even is a way to fight it….
On December 14, 2012, Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, unveiled the Federal government’s “Designated Countries of Origin” list. This list is comprised of 27 countries, including 25 member states of the European Union, Croatia, and the United States of America. A designated country of origin (DCO) is a country declared as “safe,” on grounds that it can provide adequate protection to its citizens and therefore not likely to produce refugees. The list is one part of the reforms tabled in Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.
Refugee advocacy groups have detailed the many problems with the DCO policy. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, for example, has deemed it “arbitrary, unfair, and unconstitutional,” and called it a “travesty” that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The DCO policy denies refugee claimants hailing from so-called “safe” countries important procedural safeguards, opens the door to poor decision-making, and creates a real probability that people needing protection will be returned to their countries of origin to face persecution. Under the new regime, DCO claimants have only 30 days to prepare their claim, which is not enough time to meet with a lawyer and properly document their persecution. They are denied rights of appeal and the ability to remain in Canada while they ask the Federal Court to review their case. DCO claimants are also denied access to health care.
The DCO policy thus creates a radically different, two-tiered refugee determination system. It also discounts the treatment of some minority groups in so-called “safe” countries, such as religious minorities or sexual identity groups, and, perhaps most particularly, the Roma in Europe, whom Minister Kenney has repeatedly singled out as being “bogus.”
Minister Kenney argues that as citizens of the European Union, Roma could simply seek asylum in another country within Europe if they face persecution. This is a misleading argument, since the Dublin Regulation prevents EU citizens from claiming asylum in other member states. Minister Kenney also interprets the lower-than-average acceptance rates for Hungarian Roma in Canada as proof that they are not refugees but either economic migrants seeking better opportunities in Canada or criminals intent on abusing Canada’s generous social systems.
Minister Kenney’s view of the Roma is ill-informed and incorrect. It ignores the well-founded complaints of Roma refugee claimants being taken advantage of by predatory immigration consultants in Canada. It also discounts the near 1,000-people accepted as refugees from Hungary by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board in the last decade.
This tendency to cry “none is too many” against Roma has historical precedence in Canada as well as Europe. Throughout history, Romani people have been enslaved, sold, and evicted, as well as subjected to ethnic cleansing, persecution, discrimination, and prejudice. Many European countries forcibly sterilized Romani women until as recently as 2004, and many European countries still force Romani children to attend segregated schools. Canada instituted visa requirements for Hungarian nationals in 2001 and for Czech nationals in 1997 and 2009 as an openly-direct measure to keep Roma out of Canada (the visa periods were only lifted because of international pressure, including EU-Canada relations).