Re: Refugees take protest downtown, Burnaby NOW, Sept. 19.
Thank you for your article. As I am sure you are aware, there were many public education events that took place in Vancouver (as well as many other cities in Canada) when the new refugee bill, Bill C-31 was introduced and debated winter/spring 2012. It is good that you are continuing to cover the issue even after the bill was unfortunately turned into law.
Your piece helps shed light on the fact that although many of the Roma who are claiming refugee status come from what may be seen as a "safe country," one must question, safe for whom? People do not flee their country because they find it safe. Your last sentence, however, is a bit troubling without proper context.
It is true that the acceptance rate for Hungarian citizens claiming refugee status has fallen drastically over the past two years (from a 92 per cent acceptance rate to a nearly two per cent acceptance rate and now a nine per cent acceptance rate. Some sources state it is nearly 20 per cent but that includes Roma from countries other than Hungary). However, this radical change in the immigration board's decision is taking place in the midst of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney making public statements deriding Roma as "bogus refugees." What has also taken place is the targeted killing of Roma in Hungary, with the acquiescence of the police and judicial system.
In addition, there is the famous case in Gyongyospata in 2011, where Roma families had to flee because of the paramilitary guards conducting training and circling the village. It is not without reason that the only Romani member of the European Parliament, Livia Jarokova, has sought political asylum in Canada.
Again, I thank you for taking the time to write about this very important issue, and particularly showing the very real Canadian (and Lower Mainland) connection, but I do ask that you provide a more robust context so that people can understand that the drastic downturn in acceptance rates for Romani refugees is not that things have gotten better in Hungary, but that there is a strategic (mis)use of Canadian law - the singling out of a particular ethnic group for differentiated treatment on the basis of their ethnicity. Isn't this what Roma people are fleeing from?
Shayna Plaut, PhD candidate and Liu scholar, UBC