Czech Romanies' exodus to Canada continues – Canadian press
published: 12.06.2009, 14:31 | updated: 12.06.2009 14:36:19
Kanadsk denk: t k eskch Rom do Kanady pokra uje
Ottawa – The exodus of Romanies from the Czech Republic to Canada continues, and 1,077 Czech Romanies arrived in Toronto, Peel Region and Hamilton from January to April only to escape neo-Nazi attacks, the Canadian daily The Sun reported today.
The local shelters are jammed as asylum-seekers fleeing racist persecution pour into the province of Ontario, the daily says.
“The Salvation Army in Peel is feeding nearly 100 Romany immigrants in shifts because its shelters are jammed, just one sign of an explosion of Czech Roma asylum-seekers to Ontario this year,” the paper writes on its website.
Last year in total, there were 853 Czech Romany refugee claimants in Canada.
Among the most recent is renowned journalist Anna Polakova, 46, and her six relatives, including her son Marek, who she says was badly beaten by skinheads, the paper adds.
Peel and Toronto officials are to meet government representatives this week to talk about resources to handle the influx, Sue Ritchie, manager of the Peel shelter programme, told the paper.
Romany families of up to 14 people have crammed two shelters and two hotels for months, the paper adds.
Canada once re-introduced visas for Czech citizens in 1997 after lifting them for a short period, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the the Czech Republic, primarily Romanies.
Canada eventually lifted visa requirements for Czechs in November 2007.
However, since then Canada has become a target country for a number of Czech Romanies who are claiming refugee status there.
The Sun recalls that the number of asylum-seekers has been rising since Canada lifted its visa requirement for Czech travellers in November 2007.
It also mentions the April arson attack in which a 22-month-old Roamny girl in Vitkov, north Moravia, was badly burned.
On May 3, the 250,000-strong Czech Romany community organised its first ever national protest rally against neo-Nazi attacks, The Sun reminds.
The paper also cites the words by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, saying “it's hard to believe that the Czech Republic is an island of persecution in Europe.”
His spokesman said this week the government “is monitoring the increase quite closely,” The Sun notes.
While many Romany withdraw their claims, so far 75 percent of those who applied got refugee status this year and 95 percent last year, the spokesman told the daily.
The Immigration and Refugee Board sent researchers to the Czech Republic in March to investigate the situation, but their report has not been released, the daily concludes.