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Blog Posted in avatar   Michel F. Paré's Blog

Hungarian Roma Convention Refugee hoping to start a new life in Toronto

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By Michel F. Paré
Posted Feb 2, 2011 in Politics
Wednesday February 2, 2011 Toronto Ontario. Jason Kenney Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said in June 2010. Private organizations like gay and lesbian groups need to reach out and sponsor more refugees and bring them to Canada. "And we do what we can on a limited basis but I'm saying perhaps it's time for those organizations to step up and do so in a more organized fashion," Kenney said.
Many in the Toronto Parkdale community know of my work in the LGBT community as the event manager for Queer West Arts Festival and President of the Queer West Arts Centre.
For the past year I have been quietly working as an unofficial sponsor with a Hungarian Roma Convention Refugee (allegedly attacked and beaten in Budapest by the Hungarian Guard for being Roma. Now afraid to return home), as a random act of kindness.
I feel Mr. Kenney is wrong to say he would help an LGBT Roma more than he would a Non Gay Roma, both should be treated equally. I have been an advocate for Human Rights for everyone, regardless of their ethnic origin, gender identity, race, or sexual orientation.
Roma refugees fleeing to Canada live in constant fear in Hungary from roaming gangs of Fascists skinheads, the neo-Nazis group, Hungarian Guard Movement (Also known as the Magyar Gárda and Gardistak.) and the so-called new name for themselves Civic Guard for a Better Future The Civil Guard Association for a Better Future (Hungarian: Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület) is a Hungarian militant organisation involved in anti-Roma activities in areas such as the town of Gyöngyöspata in early 2011, where they have been accused of intimidating the Roma population with weapons and dogs. The European Roma Rights Centre has claimed that the Civil Guard has ties to the Magyar Nemzeti Gárda, a new group sharing the same ideology as the banned Magyar Gárda Gárda targets are Roma, Jews and the Gay Community (Especially during Pride Parades.)
There are other right-wing splinter groups using the names Betyarsereg, Szebb Jövöert, and the Vederö. Regardless of these new names. The resurgents of these anti-roma groups are growing stronger and bolder.
The Garda are backed and founded by Jobbik Party. Jobbik says the Garda is merely an organisation of concerned citizens, filling in the gaps in law enforcement left by the police. Others see it as an attempt to undermine or even supplant the state. The Garda were banned in 2009, but keep reappearing under new names, such as the Magyar Gárda Foundation.
Video below Rise of The Third Reich in Hungary aka[ Magyar Gárda promotion video ] taken in 2009, of a supposedly banned group.What many people find particularly provocative are the Hungarian Guard's uniforms (black caps, vests, pants and boots), insignia and flags. All of it is reminiscent of the Arrow Cross, Hungary's World War II fascist militiamen who worked with the Nazis and were responsible for or assisted in the slaughter of tens of thousands of the Hungarian Jews. Is it any wonder Gays, Jews and Roma are fearful for their lives?
Jobbik president Gábor Vona said recently Magyar Gárda members, are needed by the country, as a gendarmerie if peace is to be ensured. He went on to say that the Roma birth rate should be lowered, or else three million Roma will have to support three million pensioners.
Only those who work should be given state aid, he said, and Roma children of lazy parents must be taken from their family and sent to boarding schools.
Maros Sefkovic, former Vice-President of the European Commission appointed European commissioner for Youth, Education and Culture in 2009 said, "It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, Roma still have to face discrimination on the basis of their ethnic origin. Too many Roma are still victims of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. Too many Roma children are still on the streets instead of going to school, too many Roma are denied fair chances in the labour market and too many Roma women are still vicitms of violence and discrimination"
During the WW II It is not known precisely how many Roma were killed in the Holocaust. While exact figures or percentages cannot be ascertained, historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma
I am doing everything a normal sponsor would do; from meeting his Welfare social worker to Culturelink Settlement worker to ESL teacher, explaining government documents, helping his lawyers put his case together, for a Notice to Appear. Explaining our way of life and culture, budgeting, shopping, helping with more English lessons, talking about our political system, helping him filing his income tax, how to go about renting a room, finding work as a professional hairstylist and laws of land.
In February 2010 when we first met my new friend a 32 year Hungarian Roma Refugee (name withheld at his request) knew less than 10 words in English. By December with ESL classes and living with me. His English has greatly improved. Every evening we spend two hours of home study, reading and learning new English words and phrases. He will likely request a Hungarian interpreter, for his final hearing, where the Canadian government decides fate. A very uncertain troubling future making it difficult to put down roots or get a full time job. He worked in Hungary as a professional hairstylist.
Refugees are not guaranteed on getting Work Permits. Immigration Canada makes the final determination. Just one of the many hurdles, refugees face, while waiting for a permanent status hearing. Which can take up to a year and half.
In the last ten years English is now taught in Hungarian schools, but less than once or twice a week. Before that students learned Russian. Refugees under 30 coming to Canada, and living in Toronto, still have to attend daily ESL lessons.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is continuing to make it very difficult for single male and female Roma convention refugees to remain in Canada, deporting them in record numbers. Mr. Kenney told Embassy Magazine that "what's really weird is that 97 per cent of the Hungarian refugee claimants to Canada are subsequently withdrawing their refugee claims." He suggested that could be because claimants are allowed to work in Canada, collect welfare and other social benefits even after they withdraw their claims.
That information is wrong, Max Berger an Toronto Immigration Lawyer said. Once a claim is withdrawn, that person is no longer eligible to have a work permit or medical coverage, he said, adding that most people in that situation leave the country shortly after. "There's absolutely no advantage to anyone withdrawing their refugee claim and staying in the country. He should know better, because he is the minister."
"The picture he is painting is one of refugee claimants consuming Canadian resources, and this has the effect of building up resentment against them, but in fact being a refugee claimant is really tough." said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
As to the strain on the Welfare system a refugee receives a basic rate of about $525, average room rental in Toronto is $450 and up. This leaves them with about $2.50 a day to live on for 30 days and buy groceries. Refugee dental coveage amounts extraction for a toothache, no fillings and not much else. Refugees don't get OHIP their coverage is by the Interim Federal Health (IFH) program, good only for 12 months, renewals can take up to three months, without coverage. So things are not as Mr. Kennedy paints them.
All of the 2009 asylum applications have been rejected. (Globe and Mail, Friday, Jan. 22, 2010)
Mr. Kenney, has always dismissed the Roma persecution claim. "Under current international law standards Hungarian Roma should not qualify as political refugees, even though Hungary should be much more stringent in providing protection to its minorities," "Such claims can legitimately be dismissed by Canadian authorities." He said in an email to Peter O'Neil, Canwest News Europe Correspondent in October 2009.
Regardless of What Mr. Kenney says about the Roma strategy Hungary is still an empty shell. Deputy Group leader, Monika Flašíková-Beňová,said: "Roma people in the EU, most of all women and children, are facing not only undignified living conditions as a result of their segregation, but also growing terror. The intimidating anti-Roma march organised by supporters of the extremist party Jobbik in Hungary must be strongly and unanimously condemned.
The main progressive group in the European Parliament strongly condemned the reported intimidation by thousand of far-right supporters against Roma local community in Gyongyospata and recently in Hejoszalonta (Hungary), as the European Commission unveiled an unconvincing EU strategy on Roma integration, in Strasbourg. Interview with Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament Vice-president, Hannes Swoboda.
Paul St. Clair, former executive director of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto (Biography link) says Canada should not consider Hungarian refugee claims baseless because Roma are fleeing a "pretty disgusting fascist revival" in Hungary and people are only starting to discover how best to apply for asylum here.
Hungary, often referred to as, the Best of the Decade nations, has experience the worst violence against Roma in the last year. Between January 2008 and August 2009 Roma in Hungary were subjected to a series of Molotov cocktail attacks and shootings in which six people died and others were seriously injured. Among the victims were a couple in their forties, an elderly man, a father and his four-year-old boy, and a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter. Hungarian authorities are failing to investigate and punish attacks on Roma, says a new Amnesty International Report 10 November 2010
Hungary is home to 520-650,000 Roma. 66% of the men and 83% of Roma women between the ages of 15 and 64 are unemployed. Life expectancy is 10 years shorter than the national average.
Tens of thousands of Roma live segregated slum housing, without basic amnesties, according to a 2002 survey. Only 5% .of Hungary's Roma under the age of 24, have completed secondary school, and less than 1.2% of Roma People age 20-24 attended higher education. Roma in eastern Europe are continually streamed into classes for the mentally challenged and often bullied at school.
Video Below (Taken July 13, 2009) - LEFT CHANNEL SOUND ONLY Roma Viktoria Mohacsi is a former member of the European Parliament. She feels safe in the heart of Europe, but fearful at home in Hungary. The far right there are very anti-Roma.
Mary Catherine Brouder a documentary filmmaker from the storyful.com journalist community in Dublin Ireland. She travelled to Hungary in 2010 to explore the experience of the Roma, one of Europe's largest ethnic minorities. No matter where they live the Roma are at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion than most Europeans Learn about the myth of the Roma Inclusion Policy (2005-2015) Watch Brouder's 19:04 minute video "Through Roma Eyes"
Life is not always depressing for myself and my new friend. The house is filled with laughter, a few arguments and smells of Hungarian cooking. There are occasions when my friend gets very lonely. He has no family in Canada. He loves Windows Live Messenger for voice and video, talking to his Mother through relatives with Internet connections. On weekdays I am learning to read, write and speak Hungarian with my house guest's help. (Hogy vagy?)
Neither of us are under any illusions or have any false hopes. The relationship continues, till a final hearing sometime in late 2011. If denied? It will be a sad day for both of us. My partner loves Canada, he is working hard to stay here, attending ESL classes, volunteering, looking for work as a hairstylist and following all the rules and regulations, expected of refugee while living in Canada.
He comes OUT of the Closet on August 12th. Coming out can be a very difficult process and doesn't happen overnight which is why he said nothing, when he first arrived. When he arrived 2009 he may have been unaware that he could even make a claim based on his sexuality. He may not have be eager to OUT himself to a border official or IRB member, given that he experienced persecution and abuse from the Far Right groups in Budapest.
Video: Coming out as a Gay Roma http://vimeo.com/16281957 For Michael Miko, coming out as a gay man has been a decade-long experience. Though Miko has a group of supportive friends in Prague, his main concern is bringing disgrace upon his family in his small hometown in the Czech Republic where the Roma population predominantly views homosexuality as a disease.
You may be wondering why his name is not used though out the story. Although He feels safe in Canada. He's still worried about being sent back to Budapest. He's half Roma and half Hungarian and for that reason not like by either. The Roma and Hungarian societies are homophobic. Perhaps he will someday?
Update November 9, 2012. The Canadian Immigration Refugee Board at his last hearing August 23rd 2011, was not convinced he was gay, but to their credit, said they would give him more time to prove his case.
Friends wrote letters of support. Pictures were of the couple together were provided. The Toronto Queer Arts Festival gave him a letter of support for volunteer work in 2011. He did attend a 519 Community Centre LGBT Among Friends program for refugees for six months, Karlene Williams-Clarke, LGBT Newcomer Community Services Coordinator promised to give him a letter support for his IRB hearing in January 2012, but refused to do so, instead give him a blank plastic card, good for 5% in their restaurant (Shameful) LGBT Roma refugees are not welcome at the 519 Community Centre.
If granted protection in Canada, I am sure he will write his own story.
On January 1 2012, a new constitution and law came into force in Hungary — the constitution now bans same-sex couples from marriage while the new “Family Protection” law defines the family as a heterosexual unit and stipulates that media services should broadcast programs that respect the institution of marriage and family. It provides no protection for LGBT people from unfair dismissal or hate crimes.
The Canadian Government is still deporting LGBT refugees, for various reasons. All this weighs heavily on my friend. The difficulties gays face in Hungary.
In Canada a refugee falls into categories grouped as religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion. It is the “particular social group” that experts feel should be expanded to a separate category for sexual orientation. Often witnesses and letters are dismissed as hearsay and claimants are accused of fabricating lies to stay in Canada.
Stephen Harper and Mr. Jason Kenney are not a bad people, per se. They genuinely think what they're doing is the right thing for the Country. I disagree with them. The failure to give refuge to the victims of genuine homophobic persecution is the single greatest blot on the gay rights record of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration.
Immigration Refugee Board Adjudicator handes down Denial of Claim on March 28 considers Hungary safe country for Roma and LGBT community. When the opposite is true under the new Hungary Constitution, which the IRB knows about but refuses to acknowledge. Hungary's LGBT Human Rights record is appalling. She did acknowledge he was in a same sex common law relationship. The adjudicator made a racist remark during the hearing. ""You don't look Roma your White."even though the proof was notarized and in front of her.
Mr. Jason Kenney is all to happy to split same sex partners apart, sending one back to Hungary to face an uncertain future.An appeal is made on Human Rights grounds (No Human Rights Protection in new Hungarian Constitution for LGBT Community) appeal launched in Federal Court on May 16, 2012.
Appeal fails September 10, 2012. Court provides no explanation. Deportation ordered Wednesday October 31. Both men celebrate their second anniversary together on November 1st. They have been exploring possibilities of an overseas common-law LGBT family class sponsorship for many months. A daunting project since no financial roots were established in Canada. Both men begin gathering support letters from friends,documents pictures of their loving relationship together, filling out dozens of forms. Government orders up $1500 (flat fee) plane ticket on LOT airlines, for Wednesday December 5th, 2012. So begins a new 12 month saga to be reunited again.
Parting words: You won't forget about me about me when I return to Hungary, will you Michael?
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Bill Bila, vice president of the Board at the Toronto Roma Centre said "Thank you for your efforts Michel. Canada is a better place because of you." Gina Csany-Robah, Exective Director, "I appreciate this act of kindness that you are extending toward your friend."
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RESOURCE LINKS:
A 1999 National Film Board documentary (Opre Roma: Gypsies in Canada) celebrates the vibrant culture and tenacious struggle of the Canadian Roma and introduces a new generation of Roma who claim their roots with pride. There are almost 80,000 Roma that call Canada home, but still face struggles, notwithstanding the current federal government''s recent criticism of the Roma refugee process.
Toronto Roma Centre - About
Hungarian Roma in Canada | The Plight of the Roma: From Europe to Canada (2009) | Murder Mystery: Who's Killing Hungary's Gypsies? (Time Magazine May 1, 2009) As Economic Turmoil Mounts, So Do Attacks on Hungary’s Gypsies (New York Times April 26, 2009) Why Canada should care about the Hungarian Roma (2010) | Luck of the draw - Many of Canda's Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicators, have never approved a claim for asylum for any refugee. Toronto Star March 4, 2011 News Stories in 2011 on European Roma Rights Centre website Jason Kenney's troubling refugee legacy (Embassy Magazine March 30, 2011) Toronto Parkdale Collegiate students challenge Mr. Kenndy on Roma racism (InsideToronto.com March 11, 2011) ( Wed Apr 20 2011, Toronto Star) Don’t vote Conservative, newcomers urged A New Wave of Anti-Roma Violence in Hungary (Spiegel Online includes photo gallery April 27, 2011) Should Canada Gyp the Roma? (Brett Hodgins, McGill University, January 22, 2010) (CP May 3, 2012) Roma advocate says 'Gypsy fiction' being fanned by Kenney's refugee Bill C31
Roma refugees face prejudice from Canadian ministry officials (Rabble.ca Podcast -May 4, 2010) Before Immigration Canada imposed a visa requirement on the Czech Republic, 85% of Roma refugee claims were accepted. Now that has gone down to almost zero. Rabble spoke with Bill Bila, President of Roma Community Centre in Toronto about Hungary & Czech Republic Roma refugees..

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