Toronto –Bill C-31 – closing the door on Roma Refugees

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 3rd of May 2012   Source: RomNet

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Today, is an historical day for the Roma community in Canada. At 5:30 pm, Gina Csanyi-Robah, executive director at the Roma Community Centre in Toronto, will be the first Romani person to address the Canadian federal government.


Throughout the 10 days of testimony being heard in Ottawa regarding the new refugee reform legislation, Bill C-31, she will be the sole voice of the Canadian Roma community. Csanyi-Robah said she feels incredibly grateful to have this opportunity and hopes that she can raise awareness about the epidemic of hate crimes facing her community her many parts of Europe, while addressing many of the unfair, misinformed, and prejudicial accusations that have been targeting the community here in Canada.    


Csanyi-Robah said, “Sadly, the same racist allegations that have crippled the community in Europe, are now being imported and disseminated here in my own country. From one unfortunate criminal case that took place in Hamilton involving 20 people, the entire Canadian Roma community and all of the approximately 7,000 families seeking asylum here are now forced to pay the price for it.” Furthermore, Csanyi-Robah claims that “these unfair, racist stereoytypes of collective criminality within the community is now influencing Canadian legislation.” Moreover, "withdrawn or failed refugee claims do not in any way signify that they were illegitimate, what it does speak to is the flaws inherent in our system and vulnerability of a marginalized community. In 2011, there were 167 accepted Roma refugee claims - does that mean that those Immigration Refugee Board adjudicators will lose their jobs now for accepting bogus refugee claims?"


Bill C-31’s, new proposed ‘safe country designated list’ will be detrimental to any person who needs protection from the epidemic of racist hate crimes currently targeting Roma communities in Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Among other provisions, the bill would allow the Minister responsible to unilaterally designate countries as ‘safe-countries’, from which refugee claimants would be subject to a discriminatory judicial process for their claims. The vastly shortened time period in which a claimant can access legal advice under the proposed law is a purposeful impediment to the refugee’s right to counsel.


Csanyi-Robah added that “I have met the most educated Roma in my life seeking refugee asylum in Canada. Gabor Sebok, an engineer from Hungary, had a very difficult time completing his application for asylum in the allotted 30 day window. Under the new legislation, the time will be cut to 15 days.”.


With Bill C-31, Canada is flying in the face of the international community, which acknowledges the persecution of Hungarian Roma. The Roma community in Canada does not want to see the creation of a safe country designated list – and hopes to continue having the same opportunities privileged to refugees from other parts of the world.


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