Friday, 8 August 2014

Not all Romani (Gypsies) qualify as refugees in Canada
Romani (also called Roma) which both are plural and singular) are widely known among English-speaking people by the title as Gypsies originated in Northwest India and arrived in Mid-West Asia, then Europe at least 1,000 years ago. Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe and they are also in Turkey, Spain, and Southern France.      

Since the nineteenth century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated one million Romani in the United States; and 800,000 in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the nineteenth century from Eastern Europe. Brazil also includes Romani descended from people deported by the government of Portugal during the Inquisition in the colonial era. In migrations since the late nineteenth century, the Romani have also moved to countries in South America and Canada.
The Romani have been outsiders for centuries both in Europe and the Western hemisphere. They have been referred to as the wanderers, the exotic ones, fortune tellers and thieves and are classed by non-Romani as members of a social underclass. For this reason, they also have a history of not assimilating into other cultures which my opinion isn’t entirely their fault. People who are ostracized tend to keep to themselves. The Romani seem to have a rather tarnished reputation by non-Romani who don’t spare any criticism when it comes to describing the Romani misdemeanors.
it is very difficult for the Romani to get a job in some parts of the EU (European Union). Generally, companies will not hire a Romani under any circumstances out of fear that the Romani employees will steal from them. In some parts of the EU, the Romani are shoved into ghettos with no way out. Yes, some steal. They do it because they have families to feed, including themselves. Think about it. If you were denied an education and denied gainful employment would you let yourself, your mate, and children starve? I think not. You would probably steal to survive.  Admittedly, not all UE countries treat the Romani in this manner.

During the Second World War, A great many Romani were sentenced to forced labor and imprisonment in concentration camps. They were also marked for extermination by the Nazis and the Ustaša (then in Yugoslavia) by an embarked systematic genocide of the Romani—a process known in Romani as the Porajmos. They were often killed on sight, especially by the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) on the Eastern Front. The total number of murdered victims has been variously estimated at between 220,000 to 1,500,000; even the lowest number would make the Porajmos one of the largest mass killings of the Romani in history.

After the war, in Czechoslovakia, they were labeled as a socially degraded part of the population of that country. Romani women were forcibly sterilized as part of a state policy to reduce the Romani population. This policy was also implemented with denying them future welfare payments.           

In the summer of 2010, French authorities demolished at least 51 illegal Roma camps and began the process of repatriating the Romani to their countries of origin.

Hungary was Canada's biggest source of refugee applicants last year with 4,442 claimants—the majority of which are believed to be Romani who were a stateless ethnic group from Hungary.  Almost all of their claims seeking refuge in Canada were rejected or their claims were abandoned.

I am going to tell you about a court case that recently gave a ruling on a Romani who came to Canada from Hungary seeking refugee status in Canada. His name is Mario Gyula Varga and his case was heard before Mr. Justice Harrington in a Canadian Federal Court. The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada wanted him deported from Canada.
There was a gnawing question that was before the court. “What does it take to be a refugee? Is it enough to simply prove that one is a Hungarian Romani?” If that is so, then it would be that Hungary abuses the Romani in that country. But do they?  Before I take you to the court case, I want to give you more information about the Romani in Hungary.

It has been estimated that there are between 450,000 and 1,000,000 Romani living in Hungary. There is a sizable Romani minority living in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees says that the living conditions for Romani in Hungary are significantly worse than for the rest of the population. Romani unemployment is estimated at 70 per cent, 10 times the national average. Whereas almost half of Hungarian secondary school students enroll in vocational secondary schools or comprehensive grammar schools, which provide better opportunities, only one in five Romani children do. Moreover, the drop-out rate in secondary schools is significant. Slightly more than 80% of Romani children completed primary education, but only one-third continued studies into the intermediate (secondary) level. This is far lower than the more than 90% of children of non-Romani families who continue studies at an intermediate level. Less than 1% of Romani hold higher educational certificates.

Much of the Romani population is quite poor. The main reason is that they are not provided with fair and equal access to educational resources, resulting in high unemployment, so as a result, there is a perpetual cycle of poverty that keeps them from social mobility.        
On March 1, 2011, at least 2,000 members of a right-wing paramilitary group called the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future rolled into a sleepy former coal-mining village that is 80 kilometres east of Budapest. About 450 of Gyongyospata’s 2,800 residents are Romani Wearing black uniforms and hats, they pledged to help police maintain law and order and stamp out Gypsy criminality. The paramilitary members lingered in front of Romani homes in Gyongyospata with snarling dogs, lit torches and whips. They waved red and white flags similar to those flown by the Arrow Cross Party, Nazi sympathizers during World War II. One paramilitary member screamed in a scene that was captured on mobile phone video and later showed to a visitor. “Dirty Gypsies! We should exterminate all the Roma and their children.”
Another paramilitary group called the Vedero arrived in Gyongyospata in mid-April, its members wearing camouflage fatigues and red berets. It promised to set up a training camp a stone’s throw from a row of Roma homes. Vedero’s leaders invited Hungarian teens to show up with pellet guns and boxing gloves.
“We were terrified,” said Janos Berki, 42, a Romani  father of four who has lived in Gyongyospata his whole life. “The paramilitaries followed us when we took our kids to school, screaming at us and threatening us. It got so bad that we sent the kids away to stay with relatives in another village.”

On April 22, after nearly two months of inaction by police, the Hungarian Red Cross arrived with six buses and evacuated 277 Roma women and children. Péter Szijjártó, spokesman for the Hungarian prime minister, stated that this was not an evacuation but an organized vacation. Zoltan Balog, a justice ministry official, said the Romani were on “a scheduled holiday” for Easter. What a misstatement that was. The Red Cross also denied that it was an evacuation, stating the trip was requested by the Romani community for the Easter holidays. Another misstatement. However, according to Radio Free Europe, they said in a statement that “This is the first time the Hungarian Red Cross has organized the evacuation of Hungarian civilians threatened by paramilitary activities since the Second World War.”

The Vedero camp was eventually closed on the 22nd of April, and the members of the Vedero left the area. Four days later, some of the members returned to Gyöngyöspata, resulting in a fight between the local Romani and the Vedero that left four people injured.

Perhaps more remarkable than the outpouring of hate by the Vedero was the reaction of the police and the Hungarian government which was silence by both. Human rights activists who tracked the event say the paramilitaries were ignored by the authorities for more than a month.

Lydia Gall, a Human Rights Watch researcher who studies Central Europe said, “Hungary is supposed to be a European Union country but travel to any Roma community and you will see people living in poverty like in sub-Saharan Africa and [subjected to] racial attacks with no one brought to justice,”

Many Romani would like to come to Canada but Canada’s government doesn’t believe that the vast majority of Hungarian Romani are in imminent danger. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had said that most Roma claiming that they are refugees, travel to Canada to exploit social programs, including welfare, subsidized public housing, health care, the low-income tax rebate and the child-tax benefit. He said, “When they’re done taking advantage Canada’s goodwill, the Roma return to Hungary.”
Those numbers of Romani refugees are about shrink. Would-be refugees from those countries where refugees lived will soon have only 15 days to file a personal information form outlining their claim instead of the current 30 days. And they will have to prepare for a hearing in 30 days, instead of the several months they currently have.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that such a law is unfair and ridiculous. There’s just no way that those refugees can get supporting documentation like medical and police reports within that time period. Getting those documents from the United States can take more than six weeks. Now the Citizenship and Immigration Department of Canada want those documents in less than 15 days from Hungary? 

Further, there are only a very small minority of recent high-profile criminal cases staining the reputation of the 40,000 Roma who now live in Canada.

Now I will take you directly to the court case of Mario Gyula Varga.

The Board member, who heard Mr. Varga’s case, as well as that of his mother and half-brother, dismissed his application on two grounds: their credibility and state protection provided by the Hungarian government.
Varga’s application, together with that of his mother, Agnes Kiss, and his half-brother, Rafael Kiss, were heard together. Two grounds were asserted. They were all victims of domestic violence at the hands of Varga’s father, who had been Ms. Kiss’ common-law partner until 1999. They also feared persecution by the Hungarian Guard, or its successors, Neo-Nazis and skinheads.
While the Member’s finding that Varga was not at serious risk from his father, her findings of credibility in that regard had considerable bearing on her doubts that the racially motivated attacks he recounted actually occurred.
During the hearing, Varga vacillated back and forth with respect to his relationship with his father, who indeed assisted him in obtaining a passport for him. He, now an adult, conceded that he did not personally fear his father but rather feared for his mother and younger brother who are living in Canada. What could Varga do in Canada that the police in Canada couldn`t do in protecting them?
One incident of note is that Mr. Varga’s father beat his mother some years after they had separated. She complained to the police and a criminal charge was laid. It appears that the matter did not proceed because although subpoenaed, Mr. Varga’s father did not appear in court. It seems he could not be convicted in absentia. Ms. Kiss was unable to provide the authorities with his then current address. This may have happened in Hungary but she now lives in Canada.
He claimed that one of the reasons he is no longer in touch with his father is because (a variation on an old theme) his dog ate his cell phone in which his father’s number was stored. Give me a break. Why would a dog eat a cell phone? A crocodile might but not a dog. His credibility was properly put in doubt.
Turning to matters of race discrimination, the Member found, quite justifiably, that Varga’s story improved with time. It began by him being bullied at school. He was then attacked and spent time in a hospital. He reported his attack to the doctors. They, or he, may have reported it in turn to the police. They may or may not have taken a report. He claims his efforts to obtain a copy of the medical report were futile. The judge concluded that it was not unreasonable for the Member to reject that allegation.
The Member was not satisfied that the attacks asserted by Varga actually occurred. Consequently, there was nothing in his past history in Hungary which would suggest that he would be personally at risk if he was returned to Hungary since he is no longer a young school student.
Although some people are concerned with current trends, Hungary is a functioning democracy, and it was incumbent upon Varga to establish with clear and convincing evidence that the Hungarian authorities were  unwilling or unable to protect him in a meaningful way.
The Member agreed that there was a report where the European Roma Rights Centre registered 61 attacks against Romani or their property between January 2008 and September 2012 Hungary. She added that there may well have been under-reporting. She also said that there is a rise of right wing extremist groups such as the disbanded Hungarian Guard and the rhetoric of one particular party called the Jobbik.
She also agreed that there were local failures to provide effective policing but this does not amount to a lack of state protection unless it is part of a broader pattern of state inability or refusal to provide protection. There was no such pervasive evidence of that occurring in Hungary in her opinion. She said that there was evidence of the police in Hungary putting an end to the marching of vigilante groups and the persecution of those involved in racial acts of violence.
The Member did not simply rely on good intentions on the part of the Hungarian authorities, which have not come to fruition, but concluded that there is, objectively, at the present time, adequate state protection for minorities such as the Romani.  The judge agreed with the Member’s conclusion.
The judge in his final conclusion of this case said, “A Board member is entitled to deference, even if another member might have come to a different conclusion. That, in itself, does not make the decision under review unreasonable. I find that it (the member’s decision) is.”   
Varga’s application for judicial review was dismissed which means that he can be deported back to Hungary unless he files an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.

If he files an appeal, I will later give you an UPDATE on the court’s decision. 

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