Discriminatory anti-ziganist (anti-Roma-people) protests in Hungary’s capital city, Sofia on 1 Oct 2011; photo credit: Иван – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16944767
May 8, 2017
The backdrop to all this is that Canada’s Immigration and Refugees Board (IRB) continues to accept the refugee claims of a large proportion of Roma asylum seekers from such countries as Hungary, despite the efforts of successive Liberal and Conservative governments to prevent that from happening.
The Harper government established a list of so-called safe designated countries of origin in large measure to deter Roma refugees. The Conservatives argued that it was illogical for Canada to be accepting a significant number of refugees from countries, such as Hungary and Slovakia, that they characterized as liberal and democratic.
Romani woman demonstrating in Bucharest, Romania against an anti-ziganist remark of the Romanian president Traian Băsescu against a journalist who “bothered” him in May 2007. The text on the shirt is “Ţigancă împuţită!”(“Stinking gypsy!”); photo credit: Gipsyking – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4254035
There are rumours that the Trudeau government wants to do away with the safe country designation and treat all asylum seekers equally, but that has not happened yet. Even under the current system, however, which gives asylum seekers from such designated countries an unrealistically short time to establish their claims, and no right of appeal, three quarters of the asylum seekers from Slovakia and two third of those from Hungary gained acceptance to Canada last year.
Now, the Liberal government might be worried about what will happen when it fully drops the entry requirements on the last two European Union countries on which Canada still imposes visas: Bulgaria and Romania. Both have very large, impoverished Roma populations that continue to suffer systemic economic and social discrimination, and sporadic acts of violence from a burgeoning community of extreme-right thugs. The government’s fear of a massive influx of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma could explain why the CBSA might be quietly encouraging airlines to increase their vigilance at this time.
Deportation of Roma from Asperg, Germany on 22 May 1940 (photograph by the Rassenhygienische Forschungsstelle); photo credit: Bundesarchiv, R 165 Bild-244-48 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5441619
The Liberals have historically been uncomfortable with the fact of European Roma coming to Canada as refugees, a phenomenon that started not long after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Liberal commitment to human rights, including the rights of refugees, is stronger than that of the Conservatives, especially the Harper Conservatives. But the Liberals are also economic globalists, deeply committed to increased integration among all of the planet’s free market economies. The Trudeau government considers the successful signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU to be a major achievement.
In that light, it is understandable that Canada does not want to do anything to embarrass the EU, or any of its members. Canada’s acceptance of large numbers of refugees, almost all of whom are members of the same long-oppressed minority community, is a way of telling the EU it is not living up to its own claims to be a champion of human rights. That is a message the Trudeau government would rather not send. And if the Roma must be the victims of Canada’s single-minded pursuit of liberalized trade, so be it.