Dear friends of the Roma community,
Solidarity Across Borders Denounces Deportation of Roma Family to Hungary
Their request for a stay of deportation was refused by the Federal Court’s Justice Locke this morning, less than twelve hours before the family is scheduled to be deported.
Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where approximately 23,000 Roma were systematically massacred, out of a total of 500,000 Roma murdered from 1939 to 1945 in Europe. The same racist violence that lead to these events, using the same symbols and language, is on the rise again today in Hungary. The Nemeth family came to Canada in 2011, fleeing this anti-Roma violence that they had personally experienced.
Dominik Tomko signed along the dotted line. His flight was booked, his bags packed: He’d agreed to accept $8,000 plus plane tickets in exchange for abandoning his refugee claim, and leaving the country with his wife and two sons.
Then, 17 days before his Aug. 28 takeoff date, he changed his mind. His brother Miroslav’s claim, virtually identical to Tomko’s own, had been approved.
“I didn’t know my brother was going to be accepted. So I was already prepared to go home.”
Tomko would have been one of more than 3,600 people Canada paid to abandon their refugee claims and leave the country since July, 2012, federal statistics show.
And data Global News obtained under federal access-to-information laws indicates most of these refugee claimants are Roma. Citizens of Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia make up 61 per cent of the total of people in the program – more than 1,800 by March of this year.
Immigration and Refugee Minister Chris Alexander refused to speak with Global News for this story.
“The [Canadian Border Services Agency] will not speculate on why these are the top five countries of return,” CBSA spokesperson Line Guibert-Wolf said in an e-mail.
Under the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program, unsuccessful refugee claimants who agree to abandon the appeal process are given airfare home, which on average costs $1,500, and “in-kind reintegration assistance” to a maximum of $2,000.
That payment “may be used to pay for services such as assistance creating a small business, obtaining education and/or job training,” CBSA spokesperson Esme Bailey wrote in an e-mail.
The payments are administered by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, which describes the program as “politically more palatable and less sensitive than the return of émigrés in shackles.”
Since Canada began the program in 2012, it has spent a total of $7.5 million paying would-be refugees to leave.
Certain criminals have no scruples.
That includes an accented woman who approached Franco Gangari, a 74-year-old Woodbridge man in his garage as he sat peacefully with his wife and his neighbour, 81.
After being approached by the female dressed in traditional Romani clothing, he was presented with a bogus story as a way to strike up a conversation about directions.
A new edition of Erna Paris’s book From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain will be published in January.
In 1979 and 1980, the government of Canada admitted 50,000 Vietnamese refugees. Ordinary Canadians were invited to participate in the boat people program. My parents and our extended relatives and friends raised enough money to sponsor a family. They were diligent workers: Before long, they were driving a better car than we were.
We did this because we remembered that a meaner Canada had refused entry to a shipload of desperate Jewish refugees from Nazism 40 years before.
That prewar mean-mindedness is back. Canada’s refugee determination system needed updating, but the Harper government has gone much too far. It has been accused of breaching international law, breaching the Constitution, and – just as important – breaching the values Canadians have defined themselves by.
Some recent examples: Last month, a 65-year-old Pakistani woman who fled to Canada because she had been accused of adultery and faced death by stoning was deported. She had appealed to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which advised Ottawa to delay the deportation until it could review her case under the UN Convention Against Torture, which Canada signed in 1985.
According to Amnesty International, our government’s patent disregard for international law will weaken its claim to be a global defender of human rights.
In July, Justice Anne MacTavish of the Federal Court ruled that the government’s cuts to health care for failed refugee claimants constituted “cruel and unusual treatment.” Denying health care puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk in a manner that “outrages our standards of decency” and is unconstitutional, she wrote. Clearly piqued, the Harper government announced this week that it would appeal the judge’s decision. It also asked the appeal court to delay enforcement of the order to resume health care until the appeal had been heard. That could be months.