Roma Refugees Take Up Residence At Pearson Airport

Roma refugees take up residence at Pearson airport
Updated: Sun May. 31 2009 4:18:24 PM

A group of Roma refugee claimants have made themselves at home at Pearson International Airport, waiting to meet with immigration officers who will decide their future in Ontario.

As many as 30 refugees, including young children, have gathered in the arrivals section of Terminal 1. They arrived Tuesday and have passed their time chatting with each other, sleeping on benches and planning for their meeting.

One of the refugees told CTV Toronto on Sunday that they're in Toronto because Romas living in the Czech Republic have been targeted by right-wing activists. Romas are a minority in the Eastern European nation who were once referred to as “gypsies” and have been subjected to violent abuse.

The refugees arrived in Toronto with only their luggage and their hopes that Canada will allow them to stay for good. Canada has become a popular choice for refugees in Czech Republic after a documentary aired portraying the country as a haven for immigrants.

Martin Polak, one of the refugee claimants says the group is staying at the airport because people don't have a lot of money to spare for accommodations. He says, most of all, people don't want to miss their meeting with immigration officials at the airport, because if they do, they can be arrested.

Airport officials and security authorities say the Roma visitors are not causing a disturbance and therefore have been allowed to stay. Some concerned airport employees have even brought the group some food to help make their wait more comfortable.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney