Protest in Montreal after Roma mom, daughter ordered deported to Hungary
A Roma teenager says she feels as though her last five years in Canada have been wasted and that she fears for her life, after the Immigration and Refugee Board decided that she and her mother must return to Hungary.
Gilda Lakatos, 17, made the comments in Montreal on Thursday, while a group of supporters protested by holding up a banner demanding “status for all.”
Dafina Savic, from the Roma advocacy group Romanipe, appealed to the government “to cancel the deportation, look at their humanitarian claim and grant them permanent residence on humanitarian grounds.”
Lakato arrived in Canada in June 2011, with her mother Katalin Lakatos, her brother and father. The family claimed asylum on the grounds that they had faced racist police and health care providers in Hungary.
The family was denied asylum and ordered deported last October, but refused to leave. After the family was arrested in March, the father and brother were sent back to Hungary, while the women were released.
In May, Minister of Immigration and Refugees John McCallum granted the mother and daughter two-month resident permits that have now expired. The two were ordered on Thursday to leave by Aug. 11.
The case highlights the tension between those who claim the Roma are discriminated against by Canada’s refugee system, and those who believe Roma people have been abusing the same refugee system.
Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, was often cited by former Conservative Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney as a reason the government created a list of safe “Designated Countries of Origin.”
“We now receive more asylum claims from the European Union than we do from Asia, Africa, or Latin America,” Kenney said at the time. “The vast majority – over 90 per cent – of those European claimants abandon or withdraw their own claims, choosing of their own volition not to seek Canada’s protection, but virtually all of them enroll in Canada’s generous welfare social income, health care, subsidized housing and other social support programs,” he added.
Designated Countries of Origin are those that “do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection,” according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
“The aim of the DCO policy is to deter abuse of the refugee system by people who come from countries generally considered safe,” the government’s policy states.
While all claimants are still entitled to hearings, those from DCOs cannot work upon arrival and the process is streamlined to try to get failed refugee claimants deported more quickly.
A research paper published by Osgoode Hall Law School last year examined the issue of Roma refugees and determined that Canada’s system had discriminated against the ethnic group.
Despite “efforts made by Hungary to improve circumstances for Roma people,” the researchers wrote, “it is our view that these measures have failed to stop the alarming escalation of anti-Roma activities in recent years.”
The researchers stated that Roma who came to Canada, “encountered racist rhetoric that drew on stereotypes about Roma being fraudsters, beggars, and criminals, and which presented Hungarian Romani refugee claimants as ‘bogus.’”
“When the next stream of Hungarian Roma -- or another marginalized group -- come to Canada seeking refuge, the country must do better,” the legal researchers added.
For good or for bad, the DCO list has been correlated with a huge drop in refugee claims by Hungarian nationals. The number of claims grew from 23 in 2007 to 4,454 in 2011, before dropping down to 95 in 2013.
With a report from CTV Montreal