Wednesday, December 05, 2012

What the Roma say

This YouTube video was produced by the Roma Community Centre in Toronto, Canada. A Roma (gypsy) family is interviewed and asked questions about their life and experiences in Hungary. The video is used to show sympathy for the Hungarian Roma who apply for refugee status in Canada. The vast majority of Roma applicants use the same story when they come to Canada. They often say that there is organized discrimination and racism against them in Hungary. They also say that skinheads and Hungarian Guard members attack them and threaten them, this is the reason that they are forced to flee Hungary.

Hungarian Roma have made up the largest group applying for refugee status in Canada in the last few years. There was such a huge influx of Roma that the Canadian government sent a fact finding delegation to Hungary to find out what was happening there. The Canadian delegation found no organized discrimination as the Roma claimed and found quite the opposite. The Hungarian government also proved to the Canadian officials that they were not discriminating against the Roma.

Around 80 percent of the Roma who apply for refugee status in Canada are denied. They are unable to prove that they were discriminated against. The Canadian immigration authorities ask for police records or documentation to prove what they say is true. The vast majority of Roma applicants are not able to provide this documentation and for that reason are denied. Canadian authorities have also found out that many of families are coached in Hungary before they come to Canada. They are told by others who have already come to Canada what to say to immigration authorities in order to have their applications approved. 

The Roma settled in Hungary hundreds of years ago. They came to Europe during the Middle Ages and settled in many kingdoms. They are originally from northwest India and left in the 11th century travelling across the Middle East into Europe. Many of the Roma specialized as animal traders, fortune tellers, musicians and dancers. It is estimated that there are around 700,000 Roma that live in Hungary today.

A majority of Hungarians and Roma co-exist and live peacefully in Hungary. There is a small minority on both sides that provoke the situation from time to time. Many Roma crimes against ethnic Hungarians often go unreported which has upset the population. The mainstream media and the authorities in Hungary probably fear a backlash against the Roma community if these crimes are reported.

Some of the Roma stories may be true, but it is highly unlikely that all the families were discriminated against or attacked by extremists. Canada has experienced similar immigrants in the past who have fabricated their stories in order to get refugee status. These people were not persecuted against but were economic migrants who left their home countries in search of a better life. The abuse of the immigration system by "bogus" refugees has cost the Canadian government and taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Due to new information and findings, the conservative Canadian government has now made changes to their immigration system to prevent further abuse. They have also shortened the time applicants are allowed to stay in Canada and have also cut off some benefits the applicants once enjoyed while waiting for their hearings. At the height of the influx of Roma to Canada, around 50 families would arrive at Canadian airports claiming refugees status daily. With the new changes implemented by the Canadian government, this numbered is guaranteed to dwindle. 

For more on the Roma in Canada, click here.