Monday, April 30, 2012



There are events planned all over the United States tomorrow in support of Immigrant and Workers rights.

To me, May Day is always associated with the Haymarket Massacre.



The growth of American industrial might in the 1870s and 1880s was paralleled by the emergence of unions representing the workers. Foremost among the early labor organizations was the Knights of Labor, which listed more than 700,000 members by the mid-1880s. Working conditions at the time were abysmal—little concern for safety existed in most factories, pay was low, benefits were nonexistent and the work day was often 10 to 12 hours, six days a week. The immediate focus of the K.O.L. and other unions was to achieve the eight-hour day.
On May Day 1886, the workers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. in Chicago began a strike in the hope of gaining a shorter work day. On May 3, police were used to protect strikebreakers and a scuffle broke out; one person was killed and several others injured.
The following day, May 4, a large rally was planned by anarchist leaders to protest alleged police brutality. A crowd of 20,000 demonstrators was anticipated at Haymarket Square, where area farmers traditionally sold their produce. Rain and unseasonable cold kept the numbers down to between 1,500 to 2,000. The gathering was peaceful until a police official, in contravention of the mayor's instructions, sent units into the crowd to force it to disperse. At that juncture, a pipe bomb was thrown into the police ranks; the explosion took the lives of seven policemen and injured more than 60 others. The police fired into the crowd of workers, killing four.

A period of panic and overreaction followed in Chicago. Hundreds of works were detained; some were beaten during interrogation and a number of forced confessions was obtained. In the end, eight anarchists were put on trial and seven were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Four were hanged in November 1887, one committed suicide and three were later pardoned by Illinois governor, John Peter Altgeld.

Clearly the ranks of the Knights of Labor and other unions were filled with many socialists and anarchists; some were committed to violent disruption of the capitalist system. However, no evidence was provided at the time, nor has any been discovered since, which connected the eight convicted workers to the bomb-throwing.

Widespread fear of unionism and other radicalism influenced most of the public to support harsh treatment of the accused.

The Haymarket Riot was a signal event in the early history of American labor. It was largely responsible for delaying acceptance of the eight-hour day, as workers deserted the K.O.L. and moved toward the more moderate American Federation of Labor. For many years the police at Haymarket Square were regarded as martyrs and the workers as violent anarchists; that view moderated to a large extent in later times.  (as evidence was made public).



Experts: Violence against Roma is deeply rooted across Europe



Brno, April 29 (CTK) -
Violence and discrimination against Romanies are deeply rooted in Europe, representatives of the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) said at a press conference staged by the Czech Helsinki Committee (CVH) and the AEDH yesterday.
They said there are no big differences between particular countries and that tension is now mounting also due to the economic crisis during which people's tolerance is decreasing.

The press conference was given at the close of a general meeting of the association that has 23 member organisations from 19 EU countries.

The event was combined with a seminar on Romanies in Europe.

Anna Sabatova, from the CVH, said people have many prejudices against Romanies.

"The Romanies want to work, coexist with others, but this is not made possible for them," she said.
Sabatova said she was "shocked by the situation in Italian suburbs. Some violent acts in Hungary, for instance, are even stronger than what we experienced in the past," Sabatova said.

She also criticised the situation in France that expelled Romanian and Bulgarian Romanies in the past.

"No country is free of violence," French AEDH representative Pierre Barge said.
Sabatova said some west European countries behave towards Romanies as if they were not European citizens.

The Brno meeting also dealt with the current situation in Belgrade from where some 250 Romany families have been expelled, allegedly without notice and negotiations, Sabatova said.
The people did not allegedly get a comparable shelter, she added.

The CVH says aversion of the majority population to Romanies is mounting. Polls and surveys have recorded an increase from 60 to 75 percent over a period of ten years, the CHV said.

The AEDH says the Romanies constitute the strongest European ethnic majority of 12 million people.

The experts discussed in Brno three themes - violence against Romanies, discrimination against Romanies and the minority's access to its rights.


MTV3 : Majority want Roma beggars to be deported

Finns are not prepared to accept beggars on the streets even during the summer months. In the view of most, they should be sent back home.


PHOTO A Roma beggar. Image: Yle/ Juha-Pekka Inkinen                                                  

According to a survey commissioned by commercial broadcaster MTVV3, as many as four-fifths of those asked favoured the deportation of Roma beggars currently in Finland.

As many as 85 percent of men questioned said they should be sent home while 81 percent of women thought the same.

In the view of Arto Tanner, a Docent at the University of Helsinki who has examined the plight of East European Roma, the views of Finns are quite surprising.

In his opinion, the tough stance taken by respondents gives officials a strong hand when dealing with beggars in the eyes of the law.

The MTV3 survey was carried out by Think If Laboratories Oy in April. Around 2,000 people were interviewed; the margin of error was three percentage points at most.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Roma and Racism: International Responses to a Civil Rights Struggle In Europe

Location: George Washington University, Linder Family Commons, 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC

Event Date: May 3, 2012
Event Time: 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Contact: Adna Karamehic-Oates

The economic crisis in Europe has given rise to an increase of nationalism and intolerance in many countries, including xenophobic violence against refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and others seen as outsiders. The Roma - Europe’s largest ethnic minority - have been particularly affected.

Perceived by society as second-class citizens, Roma face disproportionate rates of harassment as well as institutional discrimination in education, health, housing, and employment, which directly affect their high rates of unemployment and poverty.

Roma are easy targets for a range of societal ills, as illustrated by the recent controversy surrounding the cover story in a Swiss magazine entitled “The Roma Are Coming.” The magazine’s misuse of a three-year-old photo of a Roma boy holding a toy gun generated a storm online.

While the efforts of European governments and multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the European Union have provided some impetus for change, only a fraction of Roma have benefited. Quality of life for most, measured by any economic indicator, has actually deteriorated.

Why have international efforts so far failed to improve the lives of Roma across the continent? What national and international mechanisms are most successful in promoting the human rights of Roma? What does the crisis of the European Union mean for the socially excluded? Where can the U.S. play an important role?

a.. Erika Schlager, Counsel for International Law, US Helsinki Commission
b.. Susan Ball, OSCE Coordinator, Deputy Director Office of European Political and Security Affairs, Department of State (TBC)
c.. Zeljko Jovanovic, Director of Roma Initiatives, Open Society Foundations
d.. Moderator: Joelle Fiss, Senior Associate, Fighting Discrimination Program, Human Rights First
This event is cosponsored by Human Rights First, the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundations.

The cosponsors thank George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies for hosting and chairing this event.

Link: http://www.humanrig htsfirst. org/2012/ 04/26/roma- and-racism- international- responses- to-a-civil- rights-struggle- in-europe/
Erica Schlager has been a consistent ally of the Romani people.


Romani filmmakers establish International Romani Film Commission


PHOTO Romani documentary filmmaker Katalin Bársony, far right with microphone, and other panelists in Berlin this February.

Who are we, how many of us are there, and how can we help one another? Those were the basic questions intensively covered by the world's most famous Romani filmmakers during two days of discussion in February. The filmmakers were invited to the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Berlin (Collegium Hungaricum Berlin) to attend the Cinema Total 5 festival.
What does the Collegium Hungaricum have in common with world-renowned Romani filmmakers? At first glance it seems a bit of an odd combination. The connection would evidently never have been made without the Hungarian director and screenwriter Katalin Gödrös. As she herself has said, one year ago she asked herself the question: What is the difference between films about Romani people produced by non-Romani people and the films created by Romani people themselves?

She received support for this topic one year later, partially thanks to serendipity - the Cinema Total 5 festival was being held at the same time as the biggest film festival in Berlin, the Berlinale. Hungarian director Bence Fliegauf was presenting his film "Csak a szél" (Just the Wind) there, which was inspired by a series of eight murders that took place within a single Romani family. The director of Collegium Hungaricum remembered Katalin Gödrös's idea and asked her to organize a meeting of Romani filmmakers during this year's Cinema Total 5 festival.

The director's request fell on fertile ground and the "secret plan", contrived at a meeting two weeks prior to the start of the festival, ended up significantly exceeding the framework of just a single panel discussion.

On Tuesday, 14 February 2012, the most significant Romani filmmakers from all over Europe met for the first time publicly. Seated next to one another on the podium were Katalin Bársony, the Romani activist, director and executive director of the nonprofit Romedia Foundation in Hungary; Sami Mustafa, a director from Kosovo who also leads the Romani film organization Romawood and is the artistic director of the Romani "Rolling Film Festival" in Prishtina; Lidija Mirković, an activist and director originally from Serbia, now living in Germany, who founded the Haymatfilm initiative; and Damian James Le Bas, an actor, author, filmmaker and journalist from Great Britain who is the Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly "Travellers' Times".

That is how the four participants in the panel discussion were introduced - but one chair remained empty at the center of the podium.

Everyone was expecting that evening's guest of honor, the French actor, composer, director and screenwriter Tony Gatlif. Anticipation was rising. First, viewers were given the opportunity to sample his most recent film creation, "Indignados".

On the wall behind the podium, clips from Athens, Paris and Madrid show hundreds and thousands of angry young people calling for greater freedom and justice for all. The footage cuts to a young woman in wet clothing, probably from Africa, running out of the sea after having made it to the coast of Greece. We then see hundreds of people's heads and hands gesturing to the sky.

The screen is filled with slogans such as "No one is illegal" and "The people united will never be divided". Then we cut to the young immigrant standing on the corner of a square full of demonstrators. A small slowly forms on her lips. The viewers' faces reflect how thrilled they are. Tony Gatlif enters to thunderous applause. The discussion, entitled "Seeking Roma Film Makers!", can now begin.
Tony Gatlif speaks jovially, sometimes cracking jokes, but the honor and respect felt for this recognized filmmaker is palpable.

During the hour-long discussion, abstract topics are raised, such as that of a homeland and the desire to belong, as well as purely pragmatic questions, such as how to present a film about Romani people to viewers while preventing the repetition and further dissemination of a wide range of prevalent prejudices.

However, the greatest surprise comes just before Gatlif must leave the discussion and appear at the Berlinale. Katalin Gödrös steps before the podium and asks the key question: "Mr Gatlif, we intend to establish an International Romani Film Commission. Do you support that?" No one moves but the interpreter seated next to the French film celebrity, whispering into his ear.

"Naturally! I'll sign anything you do and write!" is Gatlif's response. The other filmmakers exhale and look at one another encouragingly. Even though the audience has learned of this commission for the first time, they spontaneously applaud. Gatlif leaves. The first part of the evening has come to a successful conclusion.

During the second part of the discussion, talk turns to the options for financing Romani films. Two opinions clash on the podium: Some are persuaded that it is not possible for Romani films to break into the world of mainstream film and the film industry, while others claim such a breakthrough is possible with the right amount of effort.

Katalin Bársony, for example, sees enormous possibilities in the Arabian and Asian markets, where she says Romani topics are currently being examined.

Her most recent film, entitled "Uprooted", was selected along with six others out of 50 000 entries to run at the Al-Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival in Doha, Qatar. Bársony sees this both as an enormous appreciation of her work and as an effort to politically exploit her film to draw attention to human rights violations in Europe.

She says the states of the Middle East are making it clear that European countries should first get their own houses in order before criticizing others. Her words are confirmed by Lidija Mirković: "Al-Jazeera is producing the best films about Romani people in the world at this moment".

The question of financing film productions became key during the discussion of the future Romani film commission. All of the Romani filmmakers met immediately the next morning, literally locking themselves into the modern conference room of the Collegium Hungaricum. They did not leave the room until they had agreed on the basic wording of the declaration that establishes the future International Romani Film Commission.

However, just before 7, when the declaration was to be ceremonially presented to the festival audience, a rather boisterous and dramatic clash took place. Until the last minute, the question had escaped everyone's attention as to whether their longtime coworker Damian James Le Bas, who had participated in many preparatory meetings and who had also assisted in drafting the declaration, should also sign it, as he was the only member of the group who was not technically considered Romani.

A basic conflict then erupted between those who advocated the opinion that everyone interested in the commission should be included and those who did their best to maintain the commission as the purely Romani representatives of Romani filmmakers.

Just before the ceremonial announcement of the declaration, the conflict went so far that it threatened to undo all previous efforts. There was the risk that the entire project might collapse. The entire group, in spite of themselves and with visible exhaustion on all of their faces, sat down at the same table once again and entered into another long discussion. In the end, the original version of the declaration, signed by Le Bas, was adopted. The filmmakers decided for the more open version of the commission. The declaration itself says that within the commission, decision-making rights will be ensured for Romani people because its various sections will be predominantly staffed by Romani members.

Despite this somewhat turbulent ending to a day of work and more than an hour of final discussion, all of the filmmakers were very optimistic and satisfied with the declaration that evening. Their expectations have produced not only expansive hopes, but also a great number of tasks for the International Romani Film Commission to complete.

Damian James Le Bas primarily criticized the current state of affairs, wherein Romani people do not have their own representatives in the film industry and are represented by the voices of others, by non-Romani film directors and screenwriters. Besides changes to this state of affairs, he said he expected the future commission to help Romani film artists finance their works. He said many Romani people do not know how to connect with financial institutions or how to even start, because financial support mostly goes to people who already have good contacts with producers. He also said he had made his most recent short film, "Rokkerenna", for only EUR 36 - and EUR 30 of that was for gas. Le Bas said that for him and for short works, low-budget productions are fine, but not everyone can work that way and large, significant projects cannot be produced that way.

Katalin Bársony spoke of very similar aims. She said she hoped that one day Romani people would be speaking for themselves through film. Lidija Marković's great wish is for the commission to assist talented, well-educated Romani people to stop being ashamed of their Romani origins and publicly identify themselves as Romani.

She claimed that when she started to focus on Romani topics 20 years ago, there were not as many Romani professionals around as there are today and that now is the time for them to stop concealing their identity, because their potential can only really be made use of if they embrace their identity.

Sami Mustafa said he sees the Romani film commission primarily as a way to assist beginning young filmmakers, a platform for transferring experience and knowledge to them. He is also optimistic: "Five years ago, there was only Tony Gatlif. Today there are five of us making documentary films. Who knows how many Romani people in future will find the courage to overcome all of the everyday obstacles and set off into the dangerous enterprise of filmmaking?"

There is nothing for it but to wish a great deal of courage not only to budding filmmakers, but also to everyone who has taken up the task of creating the International Romani Film Commission. This task will certainly require a great deal of effort and energy.

The aim of the International Romani Film Commission is to make it possible for a larger number of Romani filmmakers to realize their projects and to create greater recognition for such professional filmmakers in the various states in which they live and worldwide. The tasks of the International Romani Film Commission will include the following:

Selecting professional Romani film creators for support and creating ties between them; guaranteeing a fully independent process for the Commission's decision-making processes by making sure it is financed from three separate sources; providing advice, backing, encouragement and support for Romani filmmakers in all aspects of audiovisual and film production; lobbying mainstream filmmaker platforms to include Romani filmmakers on them; lobbying for better recognition of Romani figures on national and international film commissions and film fora for the purposes of increasing their chances of receiving mainstream financial support; creation of an International Romani Filmmakers Association.
Veronika Patočková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Romano voďi

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Pesaro, trial against Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau
Milan, April 28, 2012.
Trial against Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau.
We received the verdict.
We have been acquitted "because the offense is not".
This is a great victory for human rights. This is the victory of all organizations and activists who have sided with us, who have supported us, who wrote speeches and sent letters to institutions.
We will soon publish an article with photographs and all the details about the event.
Thanks to all our friends. A fraternal embrace.
The non-violent actions continue!

Milano, 28 de Abril 2012. Juicio contra Roberto Malini y Picciau Darío. Hemos recibido el veredicto. Hemos sido absuelto "porque el delito no es". Esta es una gran victoria para los derechos humanos. Esta es la victoria de todas las organizaciones y activistas que se han aliado con nosotros, que nos han apoyado, que escribió discursos y enviaron cartas a las instituciones. En breve publicaremos un artículo con fotografías y todos los detalles del evento. Gracias a todos. Un abrazo fraternal. La lucha no-violenta continua!

Processo contro Roberto Malini e Dario Picciau. Abbiamo ricevuto il verdetto. Siamo stati assolti "perché il fatto non costituisce reato". Questa è una grande vittoria dei diritti umani. E' la vittoria di tutte le organizzazioni e gli attivisti che si sono schierati con noi, che ci hanno sostenuti, che hanno scritto interventi e inviato lettere alle istituzioni. Presto pubblicheremo un articolo con le fotografie e tutti i dettagli del caso. Grazie a tutti. Un abbraccio fraterno. La lotta non-violenta continua!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Trial against Malini and Picciau: tomorrow we will know the judge's verdicts

Pesaro, April 27, 2011.


Roberto Malini, Victoria Mohacsi and Dario Picciau

Dear friends,

Dario and I today were under on trial in Pesaro. The Romanian Roma community who lives in the city of the Region Marche accompanied us since before the Court, to sustain us. Marcello Zuinisi, the extraordinary human rights defender, president of the NGO "Nazione Rom" came to Florence to live with us this test.

The process was tough. However, we have had the distinct impression that the international campaign to our support, with the actions by the main Roma activists and hundreds of Roma cityzens from all over the world, has reached the magistrates. We had the feeling that, unlike in the past, the judge had not prejudiced against us.

Two witnesses described the facts, stating our correct behavior, in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. One of the cops that accused us, did not appear. The other agent has contradicted himself many times.

Our lawyer has been brilliant.

Despite this development, the Prosecutor has asked a prison sentence against us, even if mild. The verdict will be public tomorrow morning and we believe that the court will absolve us. Even our lawyer is convinced of that verdict.

However, we must remain on guard.

Tomorrow morning, when we know the judgment, we will publish it on the website,

on Facebook of EveryOne Group (Gruppo EveryOne) and on the Facebook of Roberto Malini.

We also will send it immediately to all our supporters, who sent us email these days.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

MY BIG.............

People have asked if we would do a post on My BFAGW.

I couldn't write that title when it was filmed and broadcast in England, and I'm having an even harder time now.

It continues to amaze me the things that people will endorse in the name of "entertainment", even when it exploits a whole ethnic group of historically, and presently oppressed people.

Just read some of the posts on this blog.

Do I really have to address the racism here?

I hope you all realize that this show is NOT representative of the Romani culture, nor of the Romani in America.  I can expand but I just don't have the heart.

I recently heard a report on NPR about the commercials for diet and weight loss clinics.
You know all those
I certainly always noticed the difference in makeup, demeanor....but I just learned that the businesses hire SKINNY PEOPLE AND PAY THEM TO GAIN WEIGHT.  Then they reverse the BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS.

See any connection here.  I'm just asking.

Better yet, please protest it.



'Swastika on the ballot': American Nazi Party gets its first lobbyist

The American Nazi Party has its first lobbyist in Washington, according to reports.
The Hill newspaper, which covers Congress when it is in session, said John Bowles had registered with House and Senate offices as a representative of the “ANP,” according to disclosure records.

The records said that he planned to lobby on “political rights and ballot access laws,” and other issues such as civil rights, healthcare and immigration.
“You know, congressmen and congresswomen have always been telling the American public that they were open to other viewpoints,” Bowles told The Hill. “I’m going to see if they were sincere about that, or I’m going to call their bluff.”

Bowles was a presidential candidate in 2008 for the National Socialist Movement, according to US News and World Report. Nazi comes from the German words for National Socialist.

He told The Hill that people in America did not understand the term socialism, but knew what Nazism was.

“So [we] decided: Why don’t we just say what we are?” he added. “In the future, when we get people on the ballot, when people see the swastika on the ballot, they’ll know what they’re getting."
More content from and NBC News:



PHOTO A Gypsy girl feeds a baby in front of shanty housing in an informal settlement located opposite to a high-class office building in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, April 26, 2012. Authorities are on Thursday moving some 1,000 Gypsies to four segregated metal container settlements outside of the capital. There are an estimated 500,000 Gypsies living in Serbia, or about seven percent of the population. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

BELGRADE: Some 250 Gypsy families are being evicted from an informal settlement in Serbia's capital despite protests by rights groups.

Authorities on Thursday started to move some 1,000 Gypsies, or Roma, to four segregated metal container settlements outside of Belgrade
Amnesty International says the "forced eviction" of the Gypsies represents a "blatant" breach of human rights.

Belgrade authorities said the slum-settlement - made of wooden shacks in a new part of Belgrade - is illegal and prevents construction projects.

There are an estimated 500,000 Gypsies living in Serbia, or about 7 percent of the population. They often face harassment from Serbian extreme nationalist groups.
Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::


When justice protects racists
by Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia
In the photo, Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia
Barcelona, April 27, 2012. Many of you know of the existence of Roberto Malini. He is a tireless fighter. Roberto Malini's our friend, our brother, our ally. And within two days will be in court in Pesaro (Italy), and with him also appear Dario Picciau. Another great activist from the platform "Everyone Grup" show their faces in defense of Roma and any citizen who is a victim of racial or social discrimination.

I ask you to read the following lines. They are crieing against a brave and committed authorities to perform their duties without any regard to the most basic rights that are inherent to the dignity of every human being. Read the words of Roberto reflecting very clearly by the ordeal they are going through many of our brothers in Italy who have bequeathed to racist politicians who think the time has passed.

Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia

The message by Roberto Malini

Treviglio (BG), April 22, 2012
Dear friends,
I thank you for your support. We have spent many years working for social justice and we are persecuted for defending the rights of Roma and ask the institutions and authorities to respect their rights. We want to be a symbol of all those who are expelled, accused of unfairly and punished without any guilt.

In Italy, the police commit abuses and Rroma incriminating with false charges. Such sentences are unjust and often end up in prison without having committed any crime. The juvenile courts and social services snatch children from their mothers and give them in adoption to Italian families. Do not help poor and marginalized communities, but the brutally expelled. Many hospitals refuse to treat Roma people, and politicians defaming the Roma community to gain the favor of citizens.

But we know the truth and continue to devote our lives to defend it. We promise that we do not stop.We will continue to raise our voice against the abuses against our brothers and sisters gypsies. We have received threats, police and judicial harassment, and intimidation by political groups and racists. We are not violent but have powerful weapons: truth, justice and our ideals of brotherhood. We do not stop.

The Roma population suffers actual persecution in the European Union. We can not accept this continuing violation of human rights. In Italy, the hatred against the Roma is so strong that it also affects us, the defenders of human rights.

On April 27 the great activist Dario Picciau and I must defend before a judge in the terrible Court of Pesaro. What is our crime? None. Simply provide humanitarian aid to three young gypsies in front of a policeman. However, this was not the first time, because in Pesaro politicians, judges, police and many citizens have taken actions to force us to abandon the local Roma community. In Pesaro, many Roma have suffered incredible abuse and ended up in jail without guilt. We will go to the Court with pride and wearing a shirt with the image of Gandhi and the slogan: "Human rights are the bread of the world." We stand before the unjust judges of Pesaro with courage and pride, to represent all the gypsies who are and have been persecuted.

Roberto Malini
EveryOne Group Co-Chair




Born and raised on the banks of the river Volga in Russia, world renowned 7-string guitarist Vadim Kolpakov is one of the most prominent Romani musicians of his generation.

Starting from an early age and inspired by a musical family, his musical journey would take him out of his home town and eventually his home country. Now living in North Carolina, Kolpakov has toured all over the world with many ensembles including the famous “Kolpakov Trio.”

Arguably the pinnacle of his career so far came in 2008 when he toured with Madonna on her “Sticky and Sweet” tour of 2008-09.

The mercurial musician had the generosity to share some of his time to discuss all things Vadim Kolpakov, starting with where it all began.

Vadim recalled “My hometown of Saratov is in central Russia on the river Volga. My family is still there but I have not been back since 2009.

“Growing up in a Roma community in the city was OK in general. Just like in Eastern Europe, we suffered from some minor discrimination, things like name calling, but generally it was OK.”

Kolpakov continued, and explained that musical inspiration was never far away in his childhood.

“I was raised in a family who liked to perform. My father would lay the guitar and sing at parties while my mother would dance. Naturally, I started to follow their lead and play the guitar, sing and dance as well. At the time, break dancing was very popular and I was pretty good at it. Rap and hip-hop were also gaining some popularity.”

This was only the very beginning, as his talent and curiosity to learn more would take him to the Russian capital.





A new installment of a best-selling mystery series is making waves locally not for its content, but for its racially loaded title.

“Gypped: A Regan Reilly Mystery,” is the fifteenth book in The New York Times best-selling mystery series authored by Carol Higgins Clark. The book signing tour is set to land in San Diego Thursday at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in Kearny Mesa at 7 p.m.

The plot of the newest book, released April 3, has nothing to do with Gypsies, or Roma people whose origins trace back to northern India and Central and Eastern Europe. Rather, the book follows private investigator Regan Reilly as she uncovers a widespread financial scam in California.

The title, however, has prompted San Diego resident Elizabeth Schwartz to call for the event’s cancellation, saying the word constitutes a racial slur and “is beyond offensive to the Roma, because it suggests they are venal and dishonest.”

“Would you be hosting a book launch for a book called ‘Jewed’?” Schwartz wrote in an email April 20 to a bookstore representative.

Schwartz is Jewish, not Roma, but sympathizes with their cause because they were persecuted by Nazi Germany. In her protest email to the bookstore, she detailed the past and present persecution of the Roma people and passed along information about the word’s history, including its insensitive usage to mean being conned. She copied The Watchdog.

“I am utterly horrified that you are being complicit in perpetuating racism and discrimination... Please cancel this event,” Schwartz wrote.

Bookstore co-owner Maryelizabeth Hart responded to the email Tuesday saying the signing would move forward as planned.

“Putting these books on our shelves and even promoting author events is by no means an endorsement of their views or that language, but simply an endorsement of the overriding principle that people have a right to their own words and their own opinions, and so do those who choose to protest those views and those opinions,” Hart wrote. “We cannot, as booksellers, make ourselves into censors of any kind, as that would be the ultimate betrayal of that principle.”

Hart relayed comments from the author, who said she was unaware of the word’s root meaning.
“I am truly sorry for any offense caused by using the word ‘Gypped’ as the title of my book. It was a familiar word since childhood which no one I knew associated with its origin. Since this issue arose, I’ve asked many people who also had no idea of any negative connotation. Again, I apologize,” the statement said.

Schwartz said she will respectfully attend Thursday’s signing alongside San Diego State University professor Yale Strom, one of the foremost scholars and performers of klezmer and Roma music, to distribute educational information.







PHOTO: Washington Capitals' Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey playoff series.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder , National Post

Boston Bruins fans tweeted a barrage of racist, hate-filled garbage aimed at Washington Capital - and series winning goal-scorer - Joel Ward after the Bruins were eliminated Wednesday night in OT.
Chirpstory has collected dozens of the offensive tweets, all of which contain NSFW wording.

Some examples of the sick, trash-talking, racist tweets include:

"We lost.... To a hockey playing n*****.... What kind of sh** is this"
"The N***** scores again we riot #JoelWard"
"i cant believe the series winner was scored by a F****** N*****"
"Of course the only f****** n***** on washington scores!"
"stupid n***** go play basketball hockey is a white sport"
"Joel Ward is the first n***** to score in game 7 overtime"
"F****** stupid arrogant, smelly, useless, waste of life, sad excuse for a NHL hockey playing N*****!!!!"

View the entire collection of racist tweets HERE.

Read more:


Wednesday, April 25, 2012



As has been pointed out by many members, it doesn't matter what this book is about.  The title in and off itself is racist, oppressive and insulting.  I just can't imagine what book would be published with an ethnic slur about many other peoples.
Check it out.  Morgan


Help us get this book pulled from libraries and bookstores, and retitled, at the very least, by its publisher, the venerable Simon and Shuster, who should know better!

Here's how you can help:
1. Leave the author a comment on her web page at
http://carolhiggins contact/

or on her Facebook page:
https://www. facebook. com/carolhiggins clark

2. If you can help with informational pickets to spread information about why the word "gypped" is an ethnic slur, please contact Rromani Zor at com.romanizor@ for materials that can be easily copied.

3. If you can't make the event but would like to let the bookstore/library know how you feel, please use the contact information below each event.

April 24, 2012
Book Soup

Apr 24, 2012
7:00 pm
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd.
W. Hollywood, CA
Phone 310-659-3110
Leave a comment on the bookstore's Facebook page at
https://www. facebook. com/pages/ Book-Soup/ 20677614081

April 26, 2012
Mysterious Galaxy

Apr 26, 2012
7:00 pm
Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Suite 302
San Diego, CA
Phone 858-268-4747
Leave a comment on the bookstore's Facebook page at
https://www. facebook. com/MysteriousGa laxy?sk=wall

April 28, 2012

Apr 28, 2012
9:00 am
Wegman's Market
2100 Marlton Pike W
Chery Hill, NJ
Phone: (856) 488-2700
Also April 28, 2012
Carol Higgins Clark will be the speaker at the annual Friends of Doylestown Library’s Luncheon at Warrington Country Club on 4/28/12. Tickets are $40 each and will be on sale at the library on April 2-7 for members of the Friends group & from April 9-23 for the general public.EVENT DETAILS
Apr 28, 2012
12:00 pm — 2:00 pm
Bucks County Library Center
150 South Pine Street
Doylestown, PENNSYLVANIA 18901
(215) 348-9081

Leave a copy on the library's Facebook page at

https://www. facebook. com/pages/ Bucks-County- Free-Library/ 140988763365

You may also leave comments on the book's Amazon page at com/Gypped- ebook/dp/ B005GG0MV0

4. Ask your local bookstore or library not to stock this book:

Product Details
Scribner, April 2012
Hardcover, 224 pages
ISBN-10: 1439170312
ISBN-13: 9781439170311

5. Ask the publisher, Simon and Shuster, to recall and retitle the work.

Toll free: (866) 248-3049

Leave them a comment on their Facebook page:

https://www. facebook. com/Simonandschu ster


This is my review on Amazon

"Gypped is such a racist word I am amazed that publishers and distributers in this century would contribute to the oppression of an entire race of people.
Check out the definition of the word gyp. The Old English Dictionary is a good source.
It's hard for me to imagine what other ethnic group it would be acceptable to defame.

The comment about the reader 'feeling gypped' is a perfect example of why this title is so insensitive and hurtful.

As much as I like Carol Higgins Clark as a writer I'm going to have a hard time accepting her integrity in the future. "




25 April 2012


More than a thousand people, over 250 Roma families, who reside in Belvil settlement in Belgrade are at risk to be forcibly evicted on Thursday morning.

 If the eviction proceeds tomorrow, the Belgrade City authorities will be blatantly flouting international standards that Serbia is party to, Amnesty International said.

The city authorities have failed to provide information, adequate notice, legal remedies and consult people on the plans for evictions. People interviewed by Amnesty International said that they had not even been told why they are being evicted.

The Roma families, some of whom are registered as residents of Belgrade and others who are Internally Displaced Persons from Kosovo were told yesterday they will be resettled in metal containers in four segregated settlements. Three of these resettlement sites are far away from the city and their sources of work.

People who are not registered as residents of Belgrade are being returned to their original municipalities, with dubious promises that they will be provided support.

Most of the NGOs and the European Commission thought 40 families were going to be evicted - until yesterday when they were suddenly told that over 250 families would be evicted.

People were handed slips of paper telling them which container settlement they would be moved to. This makes a mockery of the international requirements of adequate notice and consultation and the city must cancel the eviction planned for tomorrow and put in a place a consultation process which adheres to human right standards.

The European Commission has committed to providing 3.5 million Euros for permanent housing solutions for the Belvil residents.

The European Commission must immediately call on the Belgrade city authorities to cancel the eviction planned for tomorrow and start a proper process of consultation with the residents of Belvil.

The European Commission must be unequivocal that any financial support is contingent on the city complying with international safeguards. There must be no mixed messages suggesting that the European Commission condones the Belgrade city authorities' blatantly flawed process for carrying out this eviction.

Families in the community are fearful about what will happen to them, particularly to people with health issues and their children, if the flawed eviction plans go ahead.

“They are going to demolish the house on Thursday. I don’t know where I will go. I will sleep in the park, in the street during the summer – I don’t know what I will do in winter,” said a 50 year old man from Southern Serbia. He and his wife have lived in Belvil for the past six years.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012



PHOTO General Post Office, Dublin ...

Over 1,600 Irish nationals, men and women, launched the Easter Uprising against British rule and conscription by seizing key sites in Dublin.

That included the Dublin General Post Office, seen above.




PHOTO Head chef Malvin Nemeth, better known as Aunt Malvin, shows off her dance moves in a Budapest restaurant that serves food traditionally eaten by Hungary's Roma minority, April 21, 2012.

REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST | Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:57am EDT

(Reuters) - If you thought the reproductive parts of swine couldn't come near the menu of a chic restaurant, think again.

For one recently opened eatery in the Hungarian capital the fallopian tube, for centuries only consumed by the country's Roma minority, is a delicacy indeed.

The restaurant, tucked away in a slowly gentrifying inner area of Budapest in a crumbling hundred-plus year-old building, goes by the name Romani Platni, meaning Roma Stove in the Romani language.

Part home restaurant, part social experiment, it is meant to open Roma kitchens to Hungarians, and open Hungarians to better understanding the ways of the Roma, who have been misunderstood and discriminated against for generations.

Strange intestines work wonders to challenge ingrained perceptions, says Sandor Orsos, 36, who leads the project.

"We have tried very hard to avoid stereotypes and cook like my grandmother used to," he said while preparing dinner for 16 recently. "You think people run screaming from the oviducts (fallopian tubes). But one group a while back came specifically for that dish."

So they got it. Ordered from a trusted butcher and stripped clean, the tubes were cooked with garlic, then chopped up into thumb-length bits, and fried with bacon until curly.

"It's as nutritious as pork gets, and it tastes exquisite," Orsos said. "Its consistency resembles chicken; I'm not much of a pork eater, but I like this dish a lot."

Food is as good a way as any to cultural understanding, and while people will travel to exotic countries and go out of their way to learn about little-known cuisines, they have next to zero knowledge about their own neighbors, he said.

Romani Platni was meant to ease that on a local basis. It opened in February with a small grant from the Open Society Institute, a handful of volunteers from a social aid group, and a half dozen local Romani women to cook.

Orsos started a blog, invited a select group of friends and known foodies for a first lunch, and put the word out in the media. He said he would throw dinners every time the place, a converted youth centre with a small kitchen and a few tables and bookshelves, was booked full.

The idea took off faster than anyone had expected, least of all the organizers.

Romani Platni's weekly dinners are booked full a month in advance, and the dinners have been so successful that Orsos has begun to entertain the idea of keeping it open every day.


"People are very happy with these dishes," said head chef Malvin Nemeth, or Aunt Malvin, a 60 year-old petite Roma woman with a wrinkly smile and a voice raspy from decades of chain smoking. "We have had stuffed cabbage before, pork chops with tomato and peppers, and potato hanuska (potato and dumplings)."

Hanuska was on the menu now, too, and Aunt Malvin returned to soak the grated potato-and-flour nuggets in goose fat and fried onions: a full stomach opens the heart, she said.

"My neighbors used to always come and ask me, Aunt Malvin, what are you frying?" she said. "I'd give them samples, and we were friendly. We were good neighbors... These (guests), they don't know Gypsy cuisine, but they are (also) curious about it."

On the Saturday menu was a steamed salad served with smoked pork; the Hanuska served with garlic pork chops (Ganca), and pasta fried in butter and served with vanilla breadcrumbs and honey glazed peaches.

"Roma food is very simple and clean," Orsos said. "Organic is a big hit these days, and it's on our menu for sure. For the Roma it has always been a regular thing: going out to the woods, picking something wild, and frying it up to eat with bread."

"Simple, nutritious, not too spicy. Spices are expensive and the Roma have always been too poor to use them."

As the guests file in, Orsos puts on Roma music from his smart phone, and the place is suddenly filled with cheer, warmth and a quiet curiosity.

"I have been waiting for an initiative like this for a long time," said Nora Szabolcsi, a 33 year-old finance expert.

"I convinced my friends that it's great, there's something other than music that the Roma can be proud of. Plus I like pork chops. The steamed salad could be dicey, but we'll see."

Halfway into the meal she gave a smiling thumbs up, and the other guests, some of whom brought their own wine, gradually eased up too. The chatter grew louder. Someone took a snapshot of her pork chops.

"We leave them alone for most of the meal," Orsos said. "Then the guests come and often chat with the women who cooked the food. They ask for recipes, and compliment them on the dishes, and then they go home. It's rarely a long affair."

It's not much, he added. But it's a start.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai, editing by Paul Casciato)






For young Gypsy musicians, it's a unique opportunity to get ahead in life.

Renowned Hungarian jazz guitarist Ferenc Snetberger's music school for
Roma kids is coming to the end of its inaugural year, with around 60
students getting instruction not just in their instruments but also in
subjects such as English and computer skills seen as key to building a
professional career.

Nearly all of the students at the Snetberger Music Talent Center in
Felsoors, a picturesque village among rolling hills on the north side of
Lake Balaton, two hours drive from the capital Budapest, come from
underprivileged Roma families.

The integration of its Roma community, estimated at around 5-8 percent of
Hungary's 10 million people, is one of the largest social and economic
challenges facing the country. Unemployment among Hungary's Roma ballooned
after the 1990 end of communism, which resulted in the close of many mines
and factories that provided low-skilled jobs.

The school chose its students mainly through auditions held around the
country; most of the teachers are, like Snetberger, also Roma.

"In regular music schools, their real talents and values often go
unnoticed," Snetberger said. "That's why I wanted to have mostly Roma for
teachers, because they are clear about this and recognize the students'

"My main aim is to build on and develop what they bring from home, to open
their musical world to new styles they haven't yet known."

One of the most talented musicians attending classes is Elemer Feher, a
20-year-old clarinetist from the city of Godollo, near Budapest. Feher is
among the oldest students at the center and has already auditioned at
conservatories in Germany, where he hopes to continue his studies.

While Feher's first love is classical music, the Snetberger experience is
helping him expand his horizons.

"I've really enjoyed playing jazz and folk and other styles which I don't
play that often," said Feher, before rehearsing a composition by Argentine
tango great Astor Piazzolla.

"This talent school is a fantastic experience in my life. It gives the
students many advantages and opportunities we could only dream about."

Snetberger, 55, is one of Hungary's most successful musicians, having
played with Bobby McFerrin, Richard Bona, Laurindo Almeida and many

The idea to teach more than music at the center came from his own
experiences abroad.

"If you don't speak English, it's hard to communicate and establish
relationships," said Snetberger, who hopes to enroll a wide-enough range
of students to form a chamber orchestra. "You need to be able to manage
yourself. It's best they learn this from the beginning."

The center, which includes dormitories, classrooms and a combination
dining and performance hall, among other facilities, was built mostly from
a grant of (EURO)2.7 million ($3.6 million) received from Norway and
finished last year.

To meet its operating expenses, the school relies mostly on funds from the
EU, the Hungarian government and George Soros' Open Society Institute. The
Norwegian Jazz Association and Hungary's Liszt Academy of Music are among
the institutions providing teaching assistance.

With an annual budget of around 90 million forints ((EURO)305,000,
$407,000), the endeavor is facing an uncertain future, said Zoltan
Meszaros, the center's director.

The center still needs to raise around 20 percent of its 2012 budget
target. Like many other projects which rely on EU funds, it soon may be
forced to either cut expenses or look elsewhere for revenues.

Hungary stands to lose nearly (EURO)500 million ($667 million) in EU
subsidies — almost 30 percent of the total it receives —
unless it can take substantial steps in the next few months to ensure that
its budget deficit remains within EU limits.

"If these funds are frozen, then we can close our doors," Snetberger said.
"But this is unimaginable to me. The center is something unique in Europe
and we will do everything we can to avoid letting it happen."

Meanwhile, classes are continuing and the second academic year will launch
in June, when around 30 new students will join a similar number from the
first year returning for another cycle.

Since the students attend regular schools, classes at the Snetberger
center are held during June, October and March to at least partially
overlap with school breaks — for a total of 12 weeks of instruction.

Between classes the students gather in small groups around the campus and
since many have their instruments at hand, spontaneous jam sessions are
practically unavoidable.

"Music is a gift," Feher said. "It's like when a person finds a life
partner. I know music is never going to hurt."

For Snetberger, 55, educating young Gypsy musicians is rewarded by the
inspiration he receives from them.

"I think no one knows them better than me because I come from the same
poverty," said Snetberger, the youngest of six children from the
northeastern Hungarian city of Salgotarjan.

"I think I play even better with them. They give me something special as
well." ----------------------------------------------------------------------



Changes to refugee law shut doors to persecuted minority

By Kristyna Balaban; April 20, 2012 - The Dominion



TORONTO — The Roma Community Centre's one-room office, located on the ground floor of the Crossways Plaza in Toronto, has been operating in this location since October 2011. Founded in 1997 after the arrival of over 3,000 Czech Roma refugees in Canada, the RCC is the only organization for Roma operating in Toronto. Originally based out of the office of Culturelink, an immigrant settlement organization, the new space now hosts a number of different programs including a weekly English as a Second Language class, a women's support group and immigration counseling.

According to Gina Csayni, Executive Director of the RCC, since acquiring the new office space there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people coming to the centre — around 20 per day — mostly Roma from Hungary. Csayni said, “as things become progressively worse in Hungary more and more are fleeing.”

The Roma, more commonly known in the English-speaking world as Gypsies, are Europe’s largest minority with an estimated 8 to 12 million living in Europe, the majority in Central and Eastern Europe. Roma trace their roots back to northern India and are said to have left their home country and migrated west over 1,000 years ago. Throughout their long history in Europe they have been subjected to slavery, exiled, killed, used as scapegoats and have been historically marginalized in almost every country they have settled in. During the Second World War military officials sent the Roma living in Nazi-occupied countries en masse to concentration camps. Seven thousand Roma lived in the Czech Republic before the Second World War; less than 600 survived.

Today they suffer low employment rates, low education levels, lack of access to government services and health care, poverty, segregation and violent crimes perpetrated by neo-Nazis and skinheads. Forced school segregation programs and state removal of children affect Roma families in some jurisdictions.

Since 1997, thousands of Roma have been seeking asylum in Canada, the first wave coming from the Czech Republic, quickly followed by Roma from Hungary, and to a lesser degree Slovakia and Romania. Currently the largest group of Roma seeking asylum in Canada are from Hungary.

In recent years, changes to visa requirements and changes to immigration and refugee laws have created significant challenges to those wishing to immigrate here, leading to a massive decrease in the number of Roma accepted as refugees.

I met Robert and Monika, two volunteers, in the Roma Community Center on a Friday afternoon. They were helping organize the Hungarian Roma community.

According to Robert, a Hungarian Roma who came to Canada with his wife and child in 2010, one of the major problems in Hungary is that Roma are afraid to speak up about the persecution and discrimination they face because they have little support. Members of the police and government are intolerant of his people, he says. A far-right nationalist party that specifically targets Roma and Jews has grown into the third largest political party in the country and has spearheaded anti-Roma legislation. If Roma were to speak up, says Robert, they could lose their jobs and neo-Nazi groups would threaten them. The risk and insecurity prompted Robert and his family to flee the country. “I never want to go back,” he says. He and his family are waiting for their refugee court hearing to determine whether or not they can stay in Canada.

For many Hungarian Roma, applying for asylum in Canada is their last hope at finding a safe place to raise a family. Monika, another Hungarian Roma who came to Canada with her husband and 2 children said, “We had to sell everything to come here: our house, everything. We have no place to go if we return.”

According to Csayni there are a number of obstacles the Hungarian Roma face when coming to Canada such as a lack of understanding of the rigorous process of the refugee system and what documents are expected for each refugee case such as police and medical records. It is often difficult for Roma to obtain these papers in their home countries because of police and state discrimination.

In Toronto, lawyers profiteering on the refugee claims of Hungarian Roma are also becoming an issue. “When I meet a client and see who their lawyer is I immediately know if they are going to have a successful claim or not,” says Csayni. “These lawyers don’t even meet their clients. They cut and paste PIFF forms, have an almost 0 acceptance rate, stretch out the case for years and once legal aid runs out they drop the clients.” This severely affects the chance of a successful outcome in the hearing.

The recent history of Roma immigration to Canada has been a complex one, which Csayni and others say has been aggravated by immigration legislation such as Bill C-11 and the newly proposed Bill C-31.

The latest Roma immigration wave began in 1997, as rates of neo-Nazi attacks and discrimination in their home countries increased. At first the Immigration and Refugee Board largely granted the Roma refugee status based on the evidence of systematic and long-term persecution in the Czech Republic and Hungary. The acceptance rate for Hungarian Roma before 1998 was around 78%.

As the number of Hungarian Roma refugees increased in 1998, the Immigration and Refugee Board organized an unprecedented examination of the overall conditions in Hungary that would be used in deciding other Hungarian Roma refugee cases. This is the only time such an investigation, known as a “lead case,” has been carried out in the history of the IRB.

The lead case involved two families and the tribunal decided that the conditions in Hungary did not amount to persecution and denied the claimants refugee status. The result was that acceptance rates for Hungarian Roma dropped from 70 per cent to 8 per cent from 1998 to 1999.

On March 27, 2006, the lead case was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal on the basis that it was designed solely to limit the number of Hungarian Roma accepted as refugees in Canada. From 1998 to 2006, more than 10,000 Hungarian Roma refugees were rejected and deported back to Hungary.

Newly appointed Immigration Minister Jason Kenney publicly vocalized the idea that refugee claims made by European citizens were illegitimate. Starting in 2008, the term “bogus refugee” became synonymous with refugees coming from so-called “democratic” countries. This had a strong impact on the outcome of refugee claims made by Roma coming from Eastern Europe. In 2008 the acceptance rate for Czech Roma was 94 per cent. After these public statements the acceptance rate plummeted to 10 per cent in 2010.

Soon after, the government established new visa requirements for Czech residents (as well as Mexican residents), drastically limiting them from coming to Canada and applying for refugee status.

Kenney's targeting of Roma refugees sparked legal action in the Roma community. Rocco Galati, a Toronto-based immigrant lawyer, and the Czech Roma community launched a lawsuit against Kenney accusing him of blatantly undermining the Immigration and Refugee Board's independent tribunal process by spreading bias against the Roma. Court action is ongoing.

Despite these difficulties, last year there were 4,423 new refugee claims in Canada made by Roma from Hungary, with 5,975 cases still pending. While Hungary is currently the country with the highest refugee claims made in Canada, its acceptance rates are one of the lowest. The 2011 acceptance rate of refugee claims from Hungary was 18.3 per cent compared to the national average acceptance rates, which was 44.6 per cent. The average wait time for a hearing is 3 years, forcing many people to live in uncertainty long-term. Many point to immigration legislation and institutional bias against the Roma as the reason for these low acceptance rates.

The Balanced Refugee Reform Act (Bill C-11) passed in 2010 under a minority Conservative Government. At the time of adoption, some of the more contentious parts of the legislation were removed in order to satisfy opposition party demands, only to resurface in the Conservative Government's latest immigration bill, C-31.

Kenney has said he hopes to see Bill C-31, named Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, passed by June 2012. Bill C-31 is an omnibus bill that incorporates aspects of several previously proposed pieces of legislation. The new laws would allow the detention of “irregular arrivals” — those who arrive by boat, for example — without a warrant or an appeal. It would also grant the Minister of Immigration sole authority to set a list of “safe countries,” which are deemed to be capable of protecting their citizens. This would limit the ability of residents of these countries to apply for refugee status and would revoke their option to appeal a rejection. They would also only be given 15 days to prepare and file their written statement which sets the basis of their claim, leaving little time to find legal counsel and translation.

Julianna Beaudoin, a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario, has been researching Roma and human rights issues since 2002, specifically focusing on the Canadian IRB and immigration policies. “Bill C-31 is yet another way the Canadian government is trying to reinforce the notion that there is a 'queue' for refugees, and groups like Roma who are taking active roles in trying to escape persecution and violence are 'jumping the queue,'” says Beaudoin. According to Beaudoin, Canada, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, has an obligation to provide Roma with a fair refugee hearing.

According to the government, assignment to the safe country list will only come after investigation, though there are questions as to whether other factors could be at play. Syed Hussan, an organizer with the immigrant and refugee rights organization No One is Illegal, argues that “safe country” legislation is linked to economic factors and trade agreements that Canada has signed or is negotiating. In particular, Canada is currently negotiating the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. Hungary is a member and held the presidency last year.

Critics question Canada's willingness and ability to accept refugees from countries with which it has signed trade agreements, since such economic affiliations often tacitly show support for a country's political system as well. Placing these countries on the “safe country” list gives the Canadian government the power to turn away large numbers of refugees. “We call this bill the Refugee Exclusion Act,” says Hussan. “This bill gives [immigration officers] massive powers of detention [of] anyone who is not a citizen and demolishes all the key pillars of a permanent refugee system. If citizenship can be taken away at the whim of a government we are in deep trouble.”

Kristyna Balaban is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker, photographer, and a member of the Toronto Media Co-op, which produced this piece.