Asylum in Canada necessary until European Union can guarantee safety for Romanies

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In a statement released the Roma Community Center in Toronto stated that it is very concerned about Canada’s recent decision to shut the door on Czech Romanies and Mexican refugees. Immigration Minister Jason Kenny thinks that Roma don’t face state-sanctioned persecution in the Czech Republic.

While it may be true that the Czech Republic (or any other countries in Eastern Europe from where Rom flee to the West) does not directly, per government decree, persecute the Rom the Czech Republic does so by proxy in that it allows others to do the dirty work for it..

As a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Canada has now taken a decision that both flouts international law and the documented reports of systemic persecution of Roma in Czech Republic. Yet Amnesty International stated in April that Gypsies in the Czech Republic “continue to suffer discrimination at the hands of both public officials and private individuals, including in the areas of housing, education, health care and employment. Not only do they face forced evictions, segregation in education and racially motivated violence, but they have been denied justice when seeking redress for the abuses against them”.

And it would appear that Amnesty International forgot the fact that Gypsy children routinely are sent – for their entire school life often – to special schools that once upon a time had the title – roughly translated – and you would find the same schools in many countries of mainland Europe and the same policy as regards to Gypsy children – of “special school for the educational subnormal”.

Human Rights Watch reported that since 1989, “Czech authorities have failed to adequately protect Gypsies from the ever-increasing danger of racist attacks. When attacks do occur, Gypsies are often denied equal treatment before the law, a direct violation of both Czech and international law”.

Minister Kenney states that claimants from the Czech Republic and Mexico are clogging the system, are preventing “legitimate” claimants from getting in to Canada, and that an overhaul of the system is necessary because it is overburdened. Yet the total number of refugee claimants arriving in Canada has decreased from 45,000 in 2001 to approximately 36,000 in 2008. The total number of refugees accepted annually in Canada has been cut in half, compared to the 1980s. The system isn’t working because of inadequate resources. Imposing visas on visitors from these two countries will not increase the number of claimants accepted from totalitarian regimes as the Minister implies, especially when those countries already have visa restrictions in place.

Minister Kenney calls Czech Roma refugee claims fraudulent. When the independent adjudicators of the IRB accepted 85% of their claims during the last 18 months, why did he say this? Neither Canada nor the EU has used this opportunity to criticize the Czech government and shame it into improving the human rights situation of this persecuted minority. This government is saying, “None is too many, we don’t want the Gypsies either.”

The IRB recently released its own report on conditions of the Romanies in the Czech Republic – yet it has no mandate to issue reports on overall country conditions and has never done so except in the case of the Rom. This is a breach of due process and taints the impartiality of IRB panelists who will be deciding hundreds of still-pending Romani-Gypsy claims.

The real reason, and this is blatantly obvious, for Canada to try to block Gypsy refugees from the Czech Republic (and elsewhere) is none of the reasons given but the very fact that they happen to be Romani, to be Gypsy, in the very same way as Gypsy from the Czech Republic, so years ago, were being turned away from even getting onto planes in Prague, for instance, by British Immigration official stationed there and working with the Czech authorities hand in glove.

The case of a Gypsy journalist is the prime example who, together with the Gadjo colleague, was on the way to London for an assignment but who was turned away at the airport by British officials who had him pointed out by Czech police as a Gypsy, while his colleague was permitted to continue and the Roma was not permitted to board the plane despite his Gadjo colleague's remonstrations even.

We now appear to see a similar situation in Canada and, I must say, it does not surprise me at all seeing the way that Canada has been going in the last couple of days, not just as far as Gypsies are concerned.

Anyone who waits for the EU to do anything will also wait a very long time indeed. We have seen this in the case of Italy, and elsewhere. The EU says a lot but does nothing, especially not when it comes to matters Gypsy.

© 2009