Montreal, 12 May 2016 — On the eve of their scheduled deportation, 17-year old Gilda Lakatos and her mother Katalin received word that the government had agreed to postpone their deportation for another two months. After Gilda and Katalin courageously spoke out about their story, countless community members and organizations responded, demanding that the Ministers of Public Safety and Immigration stop their deportation.
"At first I was in shock. I didn't believe it. And then I felt a great sense of relief," said Katalin Lakatos. "But I wish all the insecurity was over, that the government had told us that we could stay for good. Then I would be able to breathe freely."
The family left Hungary in 2011 because of the racism they had faced as Roma. The Lakatos family hoped to find a better life in Canada but they arrived in the midst of former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's racist crusade to bring the immigration system under market control, which used Roma refugees in particular as scapegoats. In this context, the Lakatos family's refugee claim was rejected and they were ordered deported in October 2015. Determined not to return to Hungary, the family remained in Canada, joining the ranks of Canada's estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants, highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Gilda's father and brother were caught and deported in March 2016; they have faced numerous difficulties since their return to Hungary.
"I've been numb since last week when we received the deportation date," said Gilda. "When I heard the news yesterday afternoon that we wouldn't be deported yet, I thought "well at least that". But the words I really want to hear are, 'you are accepted, you are welcome here'."
The family applied for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds 8 months ago. Applications on humanitarian grounds are almost never accepted after deportation.
"The government has condemned them to another two months of stress and waiting. This family has suffered too much, we demand that the government accept them immediately and reunite their family," said Mary Foster of Solidarity Across Borders.
A study* of over 10 000 Hungarian refugee claims published in April 2015 found that racist stereotypes about Roma people had become “enshrined” in Canada's refugee determination process. Because Hungary is on the so-called "safe country list", the Lakatos family, unlike migrants from other countries, will not be eligible for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) until 2018.
"We are hopeful that the current government reverses the legislative and policy measures restricting the acceptance of Roma claimants which were introduced by the previous government. These measures had a direct impact on the acceptance rate of Roma claimants, which has decreased by 90% since 1998," said Dafina Savic, Founder and Executive Director of Romanipe Montreal.
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* No refuge: Hungarian Romani Refugee Claimants in Canada, Osgoode Legal Studies Research Papers Series, 2015