From a secret location, Tomas Miko describes how he spent his first six months in Canada.
“We went down in the basement and there was...all over mattresses on the floor. Sometimes we worked at two in the morning. We worked every day and it doesn’t matter if you’re sick or something happened. You have to work.”
Tomas came to Canada claiming he was a refugee from Hungary. He was recruited into a work scheme by a Roma woman in his hometown of Papa.
“She told me she has a sister here in Canada and her husband has construction. So he can give me a job,” he says. “He said he can give me a job with good money, three to four thousand per month.”
But when Tomas arrived, a Roma family called the Domotors took him to their Ancaster, Ontario home. And it wasn’t long before he knew he had been snared in a trap. Tomas told 16x9 he was coached on exactly what to say to keep immigration officials at bay.
In June, 2012, Ferenc Domotor was convicted of human trafficking and received nine years in jail, the longest sentence for the crime in Canadian history.
Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney says some waves of immigrants have ties to organized crime in Europe.
“As far as we can tell, there are sort of ringleaders who advise people on how to come and use the Canadian system,” he says. “They find cheap flights, they almost bring people over here like travel agents. We have had flights arriving at the Pearson airport with dozens of claimants – of asylum claimants coming off the same flight.”
Minister Kenney told 16x9 many of the Roma refuges are “bogus refugees” and claims those people take advantage of Canada’s generous social assistance.
“It’s because we’re one of the only countries I know of that provides immediate welfare benefits to asylum claimants the moment they show up,” he says.
Last year alone, over 4,400 Hungarians, most of whom were Roma, claimed refugee status in Canada. Of those, 92 percent were either withdrawn, abandoned or rejected.
“I’m afraid that people have to deal with the reality here. The reality is that the significant majority of these Hungarian claimants don’t actually show up for their refugee hearing,” says Minister Kenney. “They are telling us, through their own actions, by withdrawing their claims, that they don’t need protection.”
Gina Csanyi-Robah is the Executive Director of the Roma Community Centre in Toronto. She says Roma refugees have been labelled unfairly.
“The community has been treated us, labelled us as bogus refugees, that are not genuinely escaping harm,” she says. “Saying, – ‘well they’re coming from safe, democratic European countries’, as if Europe is immune to, you know, discrimination and persecution against people.”
Using a translator, 16x9 spoke to Roma families in the Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale where it’s said more Hungarian Roma live than any other place outside of Hungary. Many of them wanted to share their stories.
“She’s saying they basically left the country of Hungary because of the racist attitude that most of the people have, the children in the school feel it because they are segregated they can attend only schools with the other Roma kids,” says Lazslo Sarkozi, translating for Katalin Kovasc.
Katalin’s husband, Tibor describes how Neo-Nazi groups In Hungary act towards Roma people.
“They can do whatever they want. Nobody stops them. The police just standing by doing nothing.”
When Katalin and her husband, Tibor, left Hungary for Canada, they say their home was destroyed by racist people in their town. Their refugee claim was recently rejected, but they are appealing the decision.
For the full story watch 16x9 this Friday at 8 PM – AT/MT, 9 PM – CT, 10 PM – ET/PT.
Read it on Global News: Global News | The Outsiders
There is also a very good clip from the movie at the website. Morgan