Lakatos Family is still in Canada, but future uncertain for Roma refugee family
Montreal, 17 July 2016 – A Hungarian Roma family whose temporary residence expired Saturday is still in Canada. Gilda Lakatos, 17-years old, and her mother, Katalin applied to renew the Temporary Residence Permit they were granted in May and they can legally remain in Canada until they receive a response on this renewal application. They are still waiting for a response on their humanitarian-grounds application for permanent status, filed ten months ago.
"It is unacceptable to leave Gilda and Katalin in this agonizing limbo. By granting the family a rare Temporary Residence Permit in May, Minister of Immigration McCallum already recognized that there are "exceptional circumstances" in this case. So it must now follow through on that acknowledgement and accept their humanitarian application without delay," said Mary Foster of Solidarity Across Borders.
"Why was this temporary relief granted if not to give Immigration Canada the time to study and respond to their humanitarian application? A TRP gives neither the right to work nor to study, so it certainly wasn't to allow Gilda to finish her high school education in Canada," said Foster.
The family had very strong reasons for leaving Hungary and has very compelling humanitarian grounds for not going back.
If Gilda is forced to leave Canada now, she will never be able to finish her high school, let alone pursue her studies at a higher level as she dreams of doing. Lack of secondary education would condemn her to precarity her entire life, particularly in the Hungarian context. Dafina Savic of Romanipe explains: “Other refused Roma refugees from Hungary – including Gilda's brother, deported in March – have faced insurmountable barriers trying to have their Canadian schooling recognized in Hungary or even to enroll in school after years abroad. In addition, the unceasing, discriminatory treatment and segregation of Roma children (45% are segregated) in Hungarian schools is such that the European Commission actually launched infringement proceedings against Hungary for its breach of EU anti-discrimination legislation this past June.”
"My father and brother were deported to Hungary in March and It is clear that the situation for Roma there hasn't changed at all. It is the same racism in the streets, job discrimination, segregation, police abuse: all the reasons we left. It is everywhere. I am extremely worried about my father and brother, who do not even have anywhere to live. A friend is letting them stay at his place, but the conditions are bad and he doesn't even have running water. Every day my father is more and more depressed." said Gilda Lakatos. Their situation of precarity is unlikely to change because of the rank labour market discrimination against Roma in Hungary: 80% of employees admitted that they rarely or never employ Roma according to a 2006 study. In addition, research by a Toronto-based legal team showed that returnees – like these two men – in fact now face a double discrimination: as Rom and as people who have exposed Hungary's racist practices abroad.
"It is particularly cruel to deport Katalin back to a situation where she has already lost one son to suicide after racist taunts by Hungarian police and almost lost a second to racially-motivated medical neglect. Hungary is a place of great trauma for this family. Katalin has been experiencing renewed depression since the family has been threatened with deportation." said Foster. "As a society we should ask ourselves why we are putting her through this."
If Minister McCallum accepts the humanitarian application, the family could be reunited in Montreal, where they found safety, peace and hope for the future.
20 October 2004 – Suicide of Katalin's oldest son following racist incident with police
2005 – Katalin launches complaint against Hungarian police for driving her son to suicide; intense police harassment begins.
February 2011 – Near death of second son (Gilda's older brother) following racially-motivated medical neglect.
14 June 2011 – Family arrives in Canada, applies for asylum.
April 2015 – Refugee demand refused.
22 September 2015 – Application on humanitarian grounds filed.
30 October 2015 – Family ordered deported. They remain in Canada.
3 March 2016 – Arrest of father and son, now undocumented, in routine police check of car they are travelling in. They are detained at the Laval Immigration Detention Centre.
8 March – Katalin and Gilda, 16-years old at the time, voluntarily turn themselves in to CBSA. They are detained at the Laval Immigration Detention Centre.
11 March – Deportation of father and son.
17 March – Katalin and Gilda are released from detention by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
11 May – On eve of new deportation date (12 May 2016), the federal Minister of Immigration recognizes "exceptional circumstances" and grants a Temporary Resident Permit – but only for two months.
14 July – Katalin and Gilda apply to renew TRP; lawyer confirms that they can legally remain in Canada until they obtain response on renewal application.
16 July – Current TRP expires.
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Solidarity Across Borders
Background on Roma in Hungary: