Montreal, 12 July 2016 – Time is running out for 17-year old Gilda Lakatos and her mother Katalin. The temporary stay of deportation the Hungarian Roma family won in May expires on Saturday and they have not yet heard back on their bid for permanent status.
"As Roma, we have always lived in fear, but the situation has worsened over the last years. On television, politicians were saying things like 'Roma are parasites which must be eliminated'. In Roma villages, groups of skinheads dressed as soldiers with Nazi flags marched around the villages. They stopped at Roma houses and chanted, "'Here you will die!'" testified Gilda, who has lived in Canada with her family for five years.
When their refugee application was refused in the context of systematic bias against Roma refugees introduced by the Harper government (1), the Lakatos family submitted an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds in September 2015. However, before they received a response, the father and brother were deported in March 2016.
Their experience has been terrible. "They live in great precarity in Hungary. I am worried about my father. He told me that he can't eat or sleep. My mother are I are worried about what will happen to them all the time," said Gilda.
Roma are among the most discriminated and vulnerable minorities in Europe. In Hungary, the situation is particularly difficult: segregation, ghettoisation, violence and anti-Rom rhetoric were part of daily life for the family. Research carried out in 2016 (2) revealed that Roma families deported to Hungary from Canada are experiencing a double exclusion: "They are not only discriminated against as Roma, but also for having exposed the racism in Hungary by trying to immigrate to Canada," explained Dafina Savic of the Montreal-based Roma advocacy group, Romanipe.
Avraham Gross-Grand of Solidarity Across Borders adds, "As a Jew of Eastern-European descent I am pained to see Canada once again turning away refugees fleeing racism in countries like Hungary. "
"We are simply asking Trudeau's Minister of Immigration John McCallum to accept their humanitarian application before the temporary visa expires on Saturday," added Gross-Grand.
Gilda still hopes to remain in Canada, "I feel despair when I think of my future. I still don't understand why we were refused, why they want to send us back to Hungary. For five years, we succeeded in living a normal life here. For the first time we were like others, we were living in safety. We had hope. The idea of returning to Hungary returns us to these memories, those slogans, the constant discrimination in every part of our lives; at school, at work, in the hospital, in the streets. We couldn't get away from it, anywhere. … Here in Canada, I can have a normal life. I have ideas about what I want to do with my life, dreams for my future …"
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(1) No Refuge: Hungarian Romani Refugee Claimants in Canada (2015).
(2) CBC, Deported Roma have little chance of return, Feb 08, 2016.