Government’s Challenge Of Roma Asylum Decision Backfires

By Klaudios Mustakas | March 9, 2015

Klaudios Mustakas – Senior Immigration Advisor: This story about Romas being granted asylum status in Canada serves as a good example of the government’s current focus on enforcement. Bold mine:

In 2011, three generations of the Racz family fled to Toronto from Gyongyospata, Hungary’s epicenter of ethnic violence against the Roma — where threats made against the minority group by thousands of fascists were so severe the Red Cross stepped in and evacuated the community.

Family patriarch Aladar Racz, 60, wife Aladarne, 61, and six children were active in the fight against racism in their community and featured in a number of news documentaries in England and France, among others.

Their refugee claims were divided up and heard in the course of six separate hearings in Canada. All of them were finally accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2013.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, however, immediately challenged the decision…
While the government did not dispute the family’s credibility or the facts of their claims, it argued the tribunal failed to assess the Hungarian government’s ability to protect the family or analyze how the alleged discrimination they suffered amounted to persecution.

By definition, a Convention Refugee is someone who is outside of their home country and has a fear of being persecuted for reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. I am not sure why this family made a refugee claim, but based on newspaper reports I can see two reasons: race and membership in a particular social group.

For the government’s part, it looks like they used the well-established argument that a person cannot be a refugee if they have protection in their own country. For example, a person from Dallas cannot claim to be a refugee; Dallas has a police force and other institutions the person can call on to assist them.

The government was no doubt afraid that the Refugee Board’s 2013 decision to grant asylum to this extended family of 39 would set a precedent for Roma and wanted the federal court to reverse the decision. Unfortunately, this has now backfired on the government. Considering how few cases the Board accepts, the government should have let the decision stand. By taking it to an appeal and losing completely, the government has drawn attention to the case. More Roma may seek asylum in the same way, and the Refugee Board may grant that asylum because this case made such a big issue out of it.
In view of the fact that the government did not challenge the family’s credibility or the facts of their claim, it did not make much sense to appeal. Too late now.

Klaudios Mustakas is a former senior manager with the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). He has 37 years of federal government service, including international diplomatic assignments in the United States and the Middle East. He retired as Chief, Enforcement (CBSA) in December, 2010.