15 September 2012, 22:02

Canada closing its doors to the Roma

Canada closing its doors to the Roma

The situation for the Roma in Europe is not improving. Trapped in a cycle of discrimination and poverty where they are not allowed a decent education and therefore cannot obtain decent jobs and in many cases segregated, not allowed proper health care and under constant attacks by ever increasing nationalist groups all over Europe, many turn to crime, prostitution and any other means they can to simply survive. This only reinforces the negative view of the Roma and leads to even more discrimination against them.

The Hungarian Roma community, which accounts for approximately 7% of Hungary’s population, continues to face discrimination in every aspect of their lives. Since a report issued by Amnesty International in 2009 little has changed for Hungary’s Roma, they still face discrimination and segregation in all areas of life. This includes public education, housing, employment and medical care.

The Roma not only face daily racism and discrimination but they have to contend with violent attacks by nationalist and neo-Nazi groups such as the illegal paramilitary Hungarian National Guard, which was disbanded by the Hungarian government but reformed and continues to grow. It is for the most part an anti-Roman organization whose members have included high level Hungarian officials in the past.

Last month the Hungarian Guard held an inauguration ceremony for 140 new members in a secret location in Dunaföldvár Hungary. Although the police came out in force, with over 300 officers taking part in an operation to shut down the ceremony and arrest members, the group managed to confuse police with decoys and misleading phone calls, and the police raided a location where none of the group’s members were actually present.

The discrimination of the Roma is by far not limited to Hungary, they face discrimination all over Europe but the reason that I am focusing on the Hungarian Roma is because soon they may have no place to go as many who were seeking asylum in Canada are being sent back and the doors for Roma asylum seekers in Canada are about to be all but closed.

With the passing of the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, a Canadian piece of legislation that some are calling the “anti-Roma law, the process for the Roma obtaining asylum will be all but impossible and their deportation will be much easier and quicker.

According to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, in a report on the cic.gc.ca website; “This legislation will help stop foreign criminals, human smugglers and those with unfounded refugee claims from abusing Canada’s generous immigration system and receiving taxpayer funded health and social benefits. Canada’s immigration and refugee system is one of the most fair and generous in the world and will continue to be so under the new and improved system.”

In reality the law will stop the waves of Roma that had begun to arrive in Canada and were abusing the system, often by returning to Hungary and still receiving benefits from the Canadian government. But the reason they return is not so simple as the government wants to portray. For many of the Roma they have no choice, many arrived in Canada with the hope for a better life but were trapped in conditions that were worse than the ones that they had left another example of the vicious cycle that the Roma are trapped in.

The new law now allows the Canadian Government the option of adding countries to a safe list in order to speed up the processing of refugees and deporting them. If a refugee comes from a country on the list, their claim will be processed in 45 days, not the 1,000 days that the other claimants have.

Such a move may help Canada to implement a universal no-visa policy for the entire European Union, something it currently does not have. For example Hungarians do not require a visa to travel to Canada but Czechs do. Their non-visa status was revoked due to the number of Roma claims for asylum.

According to the Budapest times the Canada Border Services Agency has recently reported that they are worried about the rising level of crime being committed by Hungarian Roma refugees in the country, these crimes mainly include skimming fraud and check fraud with a rising level of cases where checks are stolen and deposited into the bank accounts of refugee claimants who returned to Hungary.

The Budapest Times reported last year that the head of the National Roma Self-Government Flórián Farkas was warned by the Canadian Ambassador in Budapest, that Roma travelling to Canada “face prolonged and complicated procedures and have little chance of their asylum application being successful.”

So for the Roma seeking a better life and to break the cycle discrimination which starts with poor education, poor medical care and poor housing and continues and leads to job discrimination and no chance for quality employment and the betterment of their lives due to the previous reasons, another door appears to have been closed due to the actions of some who have supposedly cheated the system.

Unfortunately for the Roma the vicious cycle they are trapped in may not have an exit.

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