Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Harper putting screws on Roma, and it's wrong

I would have thought detention centres for would-be refugees were a thing of the past.   But in the last few days we've actually heard the Cons say that if their refugee "reforms" don't move things fast enough they are prepared to round up the in-process Roma population and confine them until they have their hearings.   And that's not the only proverbial baby that Harper wants to throw out with the bathwater.

Detention camps should have gone the way of the passenger pigeon.   They existed during World War II in Canada for the Japanese, Italians and Ukrainians because of a perceived "threat" to Canadian values.   Forcing the Roma into internal exile now is no better than what we as a country did seventy years ago.

And it leads to another problem.    The law of unintended consequences.

Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week she wants to use her influence to finish up the negotiations on the proposed Canada - European Union trade, labour and copyright agreement by years' end -- our government may be actually prepared to put that into the trash can after four years of painstaking clause by clause drafting.    It is considering imposing visa restrictions on Hungary just as it has with the Czech Republic (since both are perceived as exit points for Roma refugee claimants).   Since most of the EU (as well as the four countries in EFTA all of which have adopted the Schengen rules -- and which we already have a trade agreement with) have mostly open borders and imposes no travel restrictions on visitors  who travel throughout the trade area (generally up to 90 days in a six month period for the area as a whole, not for each country), it would naturally insist on no travel restrictions on any EU country going the other way to Canada.   If there's one set of rules for 24 countries and another one for the other two, there's a big problem.

I have said before that while I think there are some fraudulent claimants among the Roma, that can be said for virtually any ethnicity.    I also think that prejudice no matter what ethnicity it's aimed at is reprehensible -- Antiziganism, as it's called in this case, is just as bad as Antisemitism.  But I have also said that since there exists the right of abode for those who have citizenship in one EU country to live in any other state in the bloc, that other countries in the bloc should be considered for residency before a claimant looks here.   
 While this may effectively create an "internally displaced persons" situation (i.e. refugees in one's own country or trade area) -- not unlike the United States which has about 700,000 IDPs escaping gang violence and which peaked at over 1.2 million in the recent past after the Katrina disaster -- finding a place to stay without having to go through the painstaking process of immigration is, I think, way simpler.   And it's not like there's no violence committed against Roma here because of course there is.

For a claim of this nature to work, one would have to say that there's a well founded fear of persecution that extends to all of Europe -- that no matter whether some moves to France, Germany, the UK or Sweden, there will be no safe home.    But it certainly begs the question -- isn't it easier to prove this out in the open rather than behind bars?

Frankly, not even the way some other countries do it -- letting the claimants out on unlimited day passes so they can work as long as they return before curfew -- isn't much better.   These are in way out places with no connection to the main country to which they want to live permanently.   Remember when Ezra Levant suggested we dump the Tamils on Haida Gwaii until they proved their case?

The thinking here for the Roma is exactly the same.   It's racist, prejudicial and unwarranted.   By all means, legal refugees and illegitimate immigrants should be documented so we know who's here and resources such as for health care and education can be deployed correctly.   But our mostly respected immigration policy will be shot to pieces if this goes through.

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