‘Bogus Refugees’

Canada is busily trying to deport a family of Hungarian Roma with a strong refugee claim. Why? Not entirely sure, considering that two of the family’s children (who applied for asylum individually) were accepted but the parents were rejected. Their adjudicator, Anna Brychcy, is known for accepting effectively zero asylum seekers.

From the Montreal Gazette:

Anasztazia Szilagyi loves everything about her new life in Canada.

She loves that her 10-year-old daughter, Mercedesz, is thriving in Grade 4 in École Bedford in Côte-des-Neiges.

She loves her job as a caregiver for elderly patients.

But what she loves most is being treated as an equal, instead of living in fear as a member of Hungary’s despised Roma minority.

“They always tell me: ‘You are a Gypsy bitch. Go back to India,’ Szilagyi, 35, said Tuesday, describing the persecution she and her family endured before fleeing Hungary in 2011.

But the new life she has built with her husband, Dezso Nemeth, 47, and their two children will end irrevocably Jan. 28, barring a last-ditch intervention by the Federal Court.

That’s when Szilagyi, Nemeth and their two youngest children are scheduled to be deported, following the rejection of their refugee claim in 2013.

“We have a future here. We built a life. We learned a new language. My daughter is a good student,” Szilagyi said.

“They are killing my whole future.”

There is no doubt Hungary’s Roma minority is the target of widespread discrimination and escalating violence, particularly with the rise of neo-Nazi groups in recent years.

“In the last five years in Hungary, the establishment of vigilante groups and hate crimes against Roma and other minority groups has characterized a climate of increasing social and economic exclusion,” according to a 2014 report on anti-Roma violence in Hungary by the Harvard School of Public Health.

A 2006 study showed 80 per cent of Hungarian employers rarely interviewed or hired Roma applicants regardless of their job qualifications.

Despite that, a majority of Roma refugee claimants, tarred as “bogus refugees” by the federal government, have been deported since the Conservative government passed the Refugee Exclusion Act in 2012.

Under the act, people from countries designated by the federal government as “safe” — including Hungary — have shorter deadlines to complete their applications, are not allowed to appeal their refugee decisions, and must wait three years after their refugee claim is rejected to apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) — meaning they will probably be deported before they can apply.

The act drastically reduced the number of Roma refugees from Hungary, which was the leading country of origin for refugee claimants from 2010 to 2012.

But Szilagyi, whose family was the target of three violent attacks, can’t understand why her family’s claim was rejected.

·      In September 2010, Dezso, a pianist, was beaten up by skinheads in a bus station on his way home from performing at a wedding.

·      In April 2011, Mark, now 21, Dezso’s son by a previous marriage, and a friend were beaten up on their way home from school by skinheads who threatened to kill them if they returned to school.

·      And in August 2011, Szilagyi and a friend were beaten and threatened by four members of the far-right Hungarian Guards. They reported the attack to police, who closed the investigation six weeks later, saying the attackers could not be found.

The third attack was the last straw, Szilagyi said. In November 2011, the family sold everything and fled their home in Sarhida, 220 kilometres west of Budapest, for Montreal, where Dezso has a brother.

“You can feel freedom here,” she said.

“You can start your whole life (again) and not be afraid.”

When Mark was attacked on his way home from school, he didn’t want to say what had happened at first, she said.

“He was black and blue. He was afraid to tell us.”

The truth only came out when she pressed Mark to tell her why he didn’t want to go back to school to write his final exams, she said.

While the Nemeths’ refugee claim was rejected, Dezso’s two eldest children, Dezso Jr., 25, and Patricia, 23, who came to Canada in 2012 after thugs threw stones at their house and threatened them, were accepted as refugees last June.

The fact that the two older children were accepted shows violence against the Roma is real, said Leah Freedman, a spokesperson for Solidarity across Borders, a non-profit group that is helping the Nemeths.

“It shows clearly there’s violence present and a lack of protection,” she added.

It is unjust that the Nemeth family is being ripped apart, with four members deported and two members and their offspring allowed to stay, even though their stories were very similar, Freedman said.

Now, the Nemeths’s only chance of avoiding deportation is a hearing at the Federal Court scheduled for the day before their departure.

Sonia Lesage, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, wrote in an email in response to questions from the Montreal Gazette that due “to privacy laws, we are unable to provide you with details of an individual case.”

She added that the Immigration and Refugee Board, which hears refugee claims, “provides a fair hearing to asylum claimants. Decisions are made based on the merits of the specific facts presented in an individual case, and in accordance with Canada’s immigration laws.”

Lesage added that the government’s “Designated Country of Origin (DCO) policy allows for faster processing of asylum claims” and that countries on the list, like Hungary, “generally respect human rights, offer state protection and have mechanisms for redress if these are infringed. ‎”

An investigation by the Toronto Star in 2011 showed the IRB member who heard the Nemeth family’s case, Anna Brychcy, was one of the strictest, granting asylum in just six per cent of cases in 2010.

Something is deeply rotten with our system.