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Canada says Romani people not subjected to state-organized repression in EU

Ottawa, 18.2.2012 17:43, (ROMEA)

Canada intends to toughen its laws on granting asylum in order to restrict what it views as a "flood" of "bogus" immigrants from Eastern Europe. Canadian Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney submitted the amendment to the Canadian Parliament on Thursday 16 February.

The Czech authorities expect this change to lead to a lifting of the visa requirement renewed by Canada for citizens of the Czech Republic in 2009. At that time, Canada justified its decision by referring to the high number of Czech asylum seekers coming to the country, most of whom were Romani. According to a statement released by the Canadian Embassy in Prague last November, the new asylum system would be launched this June and would make it possible for Czechs to travel to Canada without visas once more.

"Our Government is very disturbed by the recent rise in requests from democratic countries that respect human rights," Kenney told journalists in Ottawa yesterday. "The rising number of bogus requests from democratic states of the European Union just makes this problem worse."

Media reports say the draft law mostly targets the reportedly large influx of Romani people from Hungary. Kenney admitted Romani people face many problems in their home countries, but emphasized that they are not the subject of state-organized repression. He alleged that many of them travel to Canada to abuse its generous social security system. "To speak plainly, people turn up at the airports, request asylum, and immediately ask when they will get their welfare," the minister claimed.

The seriousness of the reasons why Romani people are emigrating to Canada, however, is highlighted by the case of Viktória Mohácsi, a Romani woman who is a former Member of the European Parliament and an activist. Mohácsi's EP mandate expired in 2009. After returning to Hungary she had to request police protection due to the death threats she received. She is now reportedly requesting asylum in Canada herself.

Most Romani immigrants coming to Canada today are from Central and Eastern Europe, especially from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania. According to Canadian statistics, Czech citizens filed 58 requests for asylum in 2010, 24 of which were granted. In 2009, 90 people from the Czech Republic were granted asylum in Canada and 84 were granted asylum there in 2008.

The majority of immigrants to Canada from the region, however, are from Hungary. Reuters reports that 2 300 asylum requests were filed by Hungarian citizens in Canada in 2010 and 4 500 in 2011. More than 95 % of asylum requests made by citizens of EU countries last year were rejected by the Canadian authorities.

According to the proposed amendment to the immigration law, the Immigration Minister would have to right to establish a list of "safe" countries. The "safe country" criteria would include the independence of a country's judiciary, its respect for democratic rights, and the proportion of asylum requests by citizens of that country that are rejected.

The rejected asylum-seekers would also lose their current option of appealing and would have to wait one year before being able to request residence in Canada for humanitarian reasons. They could be deported in the interim. Minister Kenney said the amendment would reduce the time needed to evaluate the asylum requests for newcomers from "safe countries" from 200 days to 45.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, Czech Press Agency, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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