Roma people not 'bogus' refugees: advocates 0
Romanian children, members of Roma community, are carried by a horse pulled cart back to their homes at the end of their class at the local kindergarten in Hetea village, 200kms north from Bucharest, on March 28, 2012. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU
OTTAWA - The Conservative government's bid to designate Hungary and other European Union democracies as "safe countries" won't stop stateless Roma people in Europe from seeking refugee status, community advocates say.
Parliamentarians are currently reviewing Bill C-31, which passed second reading in the House and is now before committee.
The refugee reform bill would put refugee claims from those countries on the fast track to rejection.
The "safe country" designation is meant to stop bogus refugee claimants from coming to Canada and collecting social assistance while their cases are processed.
Hungary has become Canada's top source country of refugee claims. Many are from the stateless Roma people, who are sometimes called gypsies, a term they consider derogatory.
Many claims from Hungary aren't approved and most cases are usually abandoned or withdrawn during the 12 to 18 months it takes to process them.
Gina Csanyi-Robah, executive director of Toronto's Roma Community Centre, said low education levels and little community support make it difficult for new arrivals to navigate the system.
"They've been marginalized not for decades, for centuries - they don't have the skills," she told MPs.
And the "apartheid-like" conditions they face in Europe means they'll continue to flee to Canada and shouldn't be considered bogus refugees, she said, noting roughly 25% of the claims actually processed are approved.
Roma claimants have spiked almost a hundredfold since 2008 when Canada removed its visa requirement for Hungary, jumping from about 25 a year to around 2,300.
Among the bill's other changes is an effort to pull away the welcome mat from refugee claimants who use human smugglers to come to Canada.
Migrants who arrive en masse would be detained for as long as one year.
They'd also be blocked from getting Canadian residency and sponsoring family members as immigrants for five years.
--with files from Daniel Proussalidis