By John Geddes - Friday, December 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
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.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Hungary is now Canada’s top source for refugee claimants, but success rates are dropping
Robert fled his native Hungary in the winter of 2010. At 36, he had a job and a home in Budapest. He was doing well where many were not. (The economy in Hungary crashed in 2008 and has yet to recover.) But Robert—who did not want his last name used for fear of what might happen if he’s ever sent home—is also Roma. And for the Roma, life in Hungary, which was never easy, has become much more difficult of late.
Robert, who is working part-time as a caretaker in Toronto, says he was attacked and beaten three times by gangs of Hungarian nationalists. Not long ago, someone scrawled the word “cigány”—a nasty slang for Roma—on his apartment wall. Later, a Molotov cocktail exploded against his door. Robert flew with his wife and young son to Canada. There he joined a growing queue of Hungarian Roma seeking political asylum.
Since 2008, refugee claimants from the former Communist country have soared. From a paltry 34 in 2007, the number of Hungarian applicants climbed to 2,297 in 2010. That made Hungary the top source for refugee claimants in Canada that year (it continues to lead the category in 2011).
By Alex Derry - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
A far-right group in Hungary is cracking down on what it calls “gypsy crime”
In the Hungarian town of Tiszavasvári, members of the far-right Jobbik party have taken it upon themselves to combat what they call “gypsy crime.” Mayor Erik Fülöp has formed a “gendarmerie”—a band of 10 unarmed vigilantes, half of them paid by the city council, who patrol Roma areas and can detain suspects until the police arrive. Fülöp has defended the “gypsy crime” term: “[There are] certain types of criminality which are unfortunately especially prevalent among the Roma—extortion by loan sharks, and robberies from homes and gardens.”
Jobbik’s support is rising just as tensions between the country’s Roma and non-Roma communities are also escalating. Nine people, including two children, were killed in 49 attacks on Roma communities in Hungary between January 2008 and April 2011, according to the European Roma Rights Centre. And the historical allusions are troubling—the original Hungarian gendarmerie was a nationwide force that played a key role in rounding up Hungarian Jews for the Nazis before being disbanded in 1945. Hungary’s conservative Fidesz government has discredited the new gendarmerie as rogue vigilantes who are violating laws prohibiting citizen-led paramilitary groups from targeting ethnic or religious communities.
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
The beleaguered president thought a crackdown would help him in the polls. No such luck.
When he promised five years ago to take a pressure washer to a housing project populated mainly by immigrants, Nicolas Sarkozy’s political stock soared. Two years later, when he invited disgruntled newcomers to “leave a country they don’t like,” the resulting publicity helped propel him to the Élysée Palace. So on a level of crass politics, France’s 55-year-old president had every reason to think his latest dip in the well of Gallic xenophobia would pay off. Seldom has a French leader gone wrong playing defender of la République against the intruding hordes.
How, then, did a Sarkozy government offensive against illegal gypsy encampments in the country’s central cities turn out to be such a cringe-inducing failure? It’s been four weeks since authorities began deporting ethnic Roma by the planeload. Yet with each “repatriation” flight back to Romania, a backlash has grown. With more than 630 Roma expelled and 117 squatter camps dismantled, officials with both the European Union and the UN were criticizing the exodus, noting that few of the gypsies appeared to understand their rights. By last week, the chorus of critics had expanded across political and religious boundaries. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, condemned the operation as “a circus,” adding, “there are certain lines that must not be crossed.”
By Claire Ward - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 2:40 PM - 5 Comments
The UN has not condemned the plan, although activists are angry
In an attempt to integrate future generations of Roma into European society, the Slovakian government has controversially proposed to send children of Roma families to state-run boarding schools. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico made the announcement in March following a damning report by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay during her annual address. Pillay slammed Slovakia for the “deteriorating” situation of its impoverished, widely unemployed Roma citizens, who represent around 10 per cent of Slovakia’s overall population of 5.4 million.
By Anna Porter - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 9:18 AM - 1 Comment
Czech Michael Kocab is part revolutionary, part pop star
Michael Kocab, the Czech Republic’s minister for minorities and human rights, has not enjoyed a good year. It should have been: 2009, after all, has been a time of celebration, marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that toppled the Communist regime—a revolution in which Kocab, as a dissident and famous rock musician, played a leading role. Instead, he has been dealing with some of his country’s uglier elements. Far-right extremists have been parading through towns with signiﬁcant Roma populations; someone threw Molotov cocktails through the windows of a Roma family home in Vitkov, near the Moravian-Silesian border, injuring three people. David Duke, the infamous former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, was invited to give a speech in the Czech Republic in April about the superiority of whites over all others (he was arrested and expelled). The Czech translation of his dreadful book, My Awakening, was published by Prague’s Kontingent Press.
There have been neo-Nazi gatherings, including one where participants marched through the small town of Usti nad Labem to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth. As the financial crisis has deepened, the ultra-nationalists have attracted more of the young, who share a sense of frustration and anger. And even as Czechs celebrate 20 years of democracy, the times are reminiscent of a darker side two decades ago, when discontent followed the new government’s stiff economic measures and the Roma became the scapegoats, with one 17-year-old Roma boy killed in the town of Pisek, and Usti nad Labem eventually erecting a wall between its Roma and non-Roma populations.
Even the Czech liberal press has become critical of the Roma, who receive taxpayer-funded benefits, blaming them for using their “excessive free time,” in the words of one commentator, to commit petty crimes and irritate their neighbours. Emigrating to Canada may have seemed like a happy solution to some Roma, but earlier this year a sharp rise in the number of Roma seeking asylum prompted the Canadian government to impose visa requirements on Czech citizens. Kocab, meanwhile, has blamed local governments for failing to support their Roma, but has also accused his fellow federal politicians of marginalizing the minority. In parliament in June, he presented a declaration against all forms of extremism, signed by the leaders of all parties, the chairs of both the lower and upper houses, and ex-president Vaclav Havel.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 3:40 PM - 7 Comments
A suspect in a string of racist murders leaves a Budapest court
Hungary’s Roma population is so afraid of attacks by right-wing groups that they have started protecting their neighbourhoods through nighttime patrols. Their fear is justified: six Roma have been murdered in violent assaults since last November. After a huge police investigation, four men, alleged Roma haters who carefully planned their crimes, were detained for the deadly attacks in late August.
One of the worst attacks occurred in Tatárszentgyörgy last February. Erzsebet Csorba woke up to the sound of gunfire outside her house. She discovered her mortally wounded son not far from his firebombed house. Her grandson was nearby. “His whole small body was full with holes from the bullets,” she told Voice of America. The child soon died. Continue…