Roma refugee families in Parkdale hung a 40 feet x 20 feet banner off a pedestrian bridge atop the Gardiner expressway at 7am on December 18, 2013, International Migrants Day 2013, insisting “Romas Are Not Bogus Refugees”. Actions are taking place around the world.
“Romas are not bogus refugees, our families deserve immigration status in Canada rather than be deported to places like Hungary where our lives are at risk,” says Robert Jano. “The Roma people have faced immense pain and persecution for hundreds of years. This tradition continues to be carried out by the Canadian government when they deport us.”
Amnesty International insists that the Romas are “one of the largest and most disadvantaged minorities in Europe” facing “widespread discrimination and racism”. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Right has said that Romas face “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” of the highest order. Of the 10-12 million Roma in Europe, one in three are unemployed and 90% live below the poverty line.
“Right-wing and neo-nazi parties burned down our homes, every day we heard of Roma children and families being attacked, we were segregated in schools and turned away from jobs,” explains Timea Rusznyak. “This is happening in Hungary, in Italy, in the Czech Republic, and in Slovakia. Across Europe, the Romas are being hunted, and Canadian governments are sending us back into those conditions to suffer more.”
Attacks on Romas have been escalating in Hungary since 2006 and particularly after the rise of the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary anti-Roma organization, in 2008 and the rise of the right-wing Jobbik Party in Hungary soon after. The European Roma Rights Centre documented 61 attacks against Roma and/or their property in Hungary between January 2008 and September 2012 which claimed the lives of nine people, including two minors. The attacks left dozens of people with injuries, ten of which were life-threatening.
“Canada takes in less refugees, less families every year, the entire immigration system is being broken up,” adds Rusznyak . “People in Canada need to wake up and realize what’s happening and demand that this be changed. Migrants need full status and support, not racism and deportation.”
In 2012, Canada resettled 26% less refugees than in 2010 and 2011. While actual acceptance numbers after the so-called Refugee Exclusion Act (Bill C-31) was passed are not available, Canada received half as many asylum claims in the first half of this year as it did during the same period last year — 4,558 compared to 10,375. The number of Hungarian asylum seekers in Canada has declined to just 33 between January and March this year, compared with 724 for the same period last year.
In January 2013, Canadian authorities launched a billboard campaign in Miskolc, Hungary, to deter Roma asylum seekers. According to testimony presented by the European Roma Rights Centre at Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Helsinki Commission, the bill board campaign has resulted in “aggravation of the hostile atmosphere that Romani people have to face every day”. The Mayor of Miskolc Ákos Kriza (member of the governing party FIDESZ) stated that, “Miskolc will not welcome back repatriated Roma refugee claimants arriving from Canada”. He even threatened returning Romani parents that the authorities would take their children away and place them under state supervision. After the campaign in Forró (near Miskolc) anonymous anti-Roma graffiti appeared on houses calling on the Roma to “go to Canada”.