By
Andy Semotiuk

Roma Family Wins Asylum Case

March 9, 2015

US and Canadian Immigration Lawyer Andy SemotiukAn interesting story regarding Romas here in Canada:

A Hungarian Roma refugee family is rejoicing after a Federal Court ruling dismissed Ottawa’s bid to reverse the asylum granted to all 39 of its members.

“We are very happy and relieved that our lives are now safe and we don’t have to go back to Hungary,” Richard Racz said of the court’s recent decision to reject the federal government’s request to overturn a tribunal decision.

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.

The story goes on to note that the Minister of Immigration challenged the decision, but that challenge has now been rejected.

There’s no way to know the exact experiences of this large family in Hungary. My own experience with Romas in Europe came from a trip I made to Western Ukraine as a Canadian election observer about four years ago. During that election, the leader of the local Roma community brought about 100 Roma to a voting station and lined them up to vote in the presidential election. He then handed each Roma their internal passport and made certain the voter was clear on whom to vote for. We later learned they used cell phone pictures as a means of confirming who the voter had voted for. The voter was then rewarded if the vote was cast for the proper candidate.

In speaking to some of the Romas personally, I formed the impression that they were uneducated, poorly cared for, and purposefully kept that way by their leader so that they would be entirely dependent on him, their “Baron,” as he was called. I was very disturbed by what I saw.
Later, we toured their place of residence. That visit did not displace my earlier impression of the appalling circumstances in which they lived. This was a real and unsettling exposure to the life of Romas in the Zakarpatia region of Ukraine. Historically, Romas in Ukraine were regarded with fascination but also anecdotally considered to be linked to a wayward and cultish lifestyle.
If the Romas that came from Hungary were similar in nature to those I met in Western Ukraine, I would not support their immigration to Canada. I do not know the family that was granted refugee status, but I am cautious about their success in this case in view of my first-hand experience as an election observer in Europe.
Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with immigration law firm Pace Immigration. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.
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