Kenney assertive on Roma refugees, but critics argue the details

by John Geddes

The fate of Roma migrants trying to escape Hungary was the pressing issue in the air as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney gave one of his typically forceful performances today at the National Press Theatre, just off Parliament Hill, announcing new refugee rules. His critics, however, said his air of confidence covered a misleading portrayal of the real options open to the Roma in Europe.

Kenney released a list of 27 countries or origin that will be considered “safe” for the purposes of assessing would-be refugees claiming to need asylum in Canada from persecution in their homelands. All 25 European Union nations, including Hungary—the source of thousands of the ethnic Roma refugees in recent years who have filed refugee claims in Canada—are on that new list of safe countries.

These countries, as democracies with respectable legal systems, don’t normally produce real refugees fleeing persecution. So anyone from one of the listed safe countries will be processed more quickly by Canadian authorities than claimants from other countries. As well, they won’t have access to a new appeals process, open to those from other countries, if their initial applications are rejected. When their claims are rejected, they are liable to be sent home more swiftly.

In the case of the Roma people, Kenney expressed sympathy for the discrimination they face in Hungary, where he recently visited a Roma community. Still, he said “virtually none” of their refugee claims filed in Canada turn out to be valid. “In the case of Hungary,” he said, “95 per cent of the claims that have been finalized in our fair system have been abandoned, withdrawn or rejected.”

He argued that if they were genuinely fleeing persecution, they would naturally seek protection first in nearby European countries. “The European Union—we’re talking about countries that have protections for human rights every bit as strong as Canada’s, countries like Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom—all of these countries believe that claims from Hungary are manifestly unfounded,” Kenney said.

But Peter Showler, director of a refugee law research forum at University of Ottawa, said Kenney is wrong to suggest those EU countries have actually reviewed refugee claims from Hungary’s Roma. “The fact of the matter is they cannot seek asylum in other European Union countries. There is an agreement in place that you cannot seek asylum in another EU country. That’s a straightforward fact,” Showler said. “That’s a binding agreement among EU countries.”

Kenney also repeatedly asserted that the Hungarian Roma have the right of free mobility within the EU, making it suspicious that they would travel as far as Canada to seek haven from oppression. Again, though, Showler said the real opportunities for the Roma to relocate that way are very limited. “The maximum they can be in another EU country is three months unless they obtain employment,” he said. “They are undereducated, stigmatized Roma from Hungary. Their chances of finding employment in these other countries is very low.”

Debate over Hungary being put on the new safe-countries list might be too late to make any difference. The new system, part of Kenney’s wider reforms under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, comes into force tomorrow.




Browse

Kenney assertive on Roma refugees, but critics argue the details

  1. Nix the fact based arguments wouldja? What matters is he made a strong sound bite.

  2. Kenney started out as an ignorant ass, and he’s gone downhill since then.

  3. Wow Kenney called out for getting it wrong…again. Still, in a party that’s still in denial over the f35 programme, and containing the likes of Mackay, Poilievre and Big D, the bar is set awfully low. It just has to be plausible.

    Unfortunately for Kenney while that standard is more than good enough for the party base, most of the rest of us demand more…much more.

  4. When it comes down to it, this is REALLY all about Roma emigres. At least that seems to be the focus. Our neighbourhood has many of those emigres and, yes, there is some ambivalence to their presence.

    However, in the interest of really understanding their circumstances, Mr. Kenney should go back to Hungary and sit-in on a Jobbik or Magyar Garda meeting. Maybe he should even attend in traditional Roma costume. Deep method politicking like…

  5. I don’t see why the Roma problem is a Canadian problem all of a sudden. Yes there are problems in different countries of the EU with the Roma population, but they are not risking their lives -with a possible couple of exceptions here and there- or anything like that. The problems can and should be discussed and solved in their countries of origin perhaps with international assistance in the worst cases (UN, International Amnesty etcetera). Is not possible for Canada to become the ultimate destination for all the people of the world that experience problems in their home countries.

    • Roma people do not face any discrimination or threats to their lives in any European country. PERIOD.

  6. I do not understand what Peter Showler actually suggest by saying that the chances of Roma to find employment in EU countries is very low because they are under-educated? Does he suggest that when these people come to Canada that they will have better chances to find an employment? If that is so than why we have university graduates of our own Canadian universities and those from abroad who cannot find jobs or who are underemployed?
    And by the way, the school attendance in all Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia is compulsory for all children including those of Roma origin. It’s Roma people who intentionally ignored the school attendance and it has absolutely nothing to do with any discrimination.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *