Interpreter: Czech Romanies abuse Canada's tolerance
Prague Daily Monitor
10 July 2009
Prague, July 9 (CTK) – Canada is so tolerant with an administrative system based on mutual trust to such a high extent that it harms the country and Czech Romanies seeking asylum there often abuse it, Czech interpreter Jan Rotbauer, living in Canada, told Thursday's issue of Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD).
Rotbauer has been interpreting for Czech Romanies in asylum proceedings. His services are in this case covered by the Canadian federal government.
Canada is considering reimposing visa requirements on Czech citizens, which were lifted in 2007, over a rising number of Czech Romanies who claim refugee status there.
According to the Canadian embassy in Prague, Czechs submitted 1720 refugee claims in Canada in the first half of the year only, which makes the Czech Republic the second top source country behind Mexico.
Rotbauer told MfD that Canadian immigration officials are behaving professionally and correctly towards Czech Romany asylum applicants under all circumstances.
“However, there are situations where the clerk is certainly considering whether some of the refugees are not abusing the Canadian welfare system. For instance, if an asylum claimant does not know when his father and mother were born but he knows all to what he is entitled in Canada,” Rotbauer added.
He reminds that after two interviews at the airport in Canada, most of the immigrants receive the status of asylum seekers with the right to stay in Canada for one or two years until their claims are proceeded.
The Canadian authorities reject virtually only those who sought asylum in the past and then returned home.
Moreover, asylum claimants are entitled to various benefits such as free accommodation with catering, pocket money of eight Canadian dollars, an equivalent of 130 crowns, a day per person. If they find a flat, the social authority pays a major part of the rent along with financial contributions for food, transport and clothes. The asylum applicants also receive a one-off benefit of 1500 dollars (24,300 crowns) per family.
Rotbauer, however, adds that the sum, though high from the Czech point of view, definitely does not suffice for a careless living in Canada.
Nevertheless, he also points out that many Czech Romany immigrants are aware of a special allowance of 250 dollars (4050 crowns) for people with some food allergy who prove it by a doctor's certificate. In Canada the applicants can just tell a doctor about an alleged allergy and he issues a certificate without medical tests.
“I interpreted for a doctor who told me: I have met the seventeenth family already who claim they can eat almost nothing,” Rotbauer said, though he added that the conditions of this benefit are being tightened.
He also said the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) that decides on granting asylum does not demand evidence on discrimination, unlike similar asylum officials in Britain, for instance.
Canadian clerks are only trying to find out whether the refugee is telling the truth and is trustworthy during the interview.
“One member of the commission has really surprised me by his trustfulness. The asylum applicants claimed that the skinheads' children were beating up their kids in kindergarten. I do not believe that five-year-old skinheads exist,” Rotbauer said.
Canada also covers the costs of a lawyer who helps the asylum applicant fill all the forms for the immigration board. Thanks to these lawyers, the success rate of asylum applications is so high, Rotbauer noted.
He added that the Canadian asylum clerks have a brochure on the Czech Republic that describes it as a democratic country with a legal and social system that is functioning but not sufficiently and mentions certain shortcomings in the judiciary system.
On the basis of this information, the clerks then tend to trust the version of the refugee status claimants, Rotbauer noted.
Asked whether the Czech Romanies' immigration to Canada is organised and a profitable business, he admitted that this impression may be substantiated as Romanies arrive in Canada well instructed about what they should take with and how they should answer the questions at the airport.
“However, their family solidarity plays the most important role, in my opinion. Those who arrive in Canada, immediately inform their relatives at home about the situation via Skype,” Rotbauer told the paper.
On the other hand, he admitted that people who were really discriminated against over their ethnicity in the Czech Republic would never face racial prejudices in Canada. They may even have a better chance to find a job since dark-skinned job applicants are often preferred to show political correctness even though Canada does not have official quotas, he added.
“If someone who has been a target of a racial attack comes to Canada and wants to live an honest life, it could not happen that he would have a worse living there than in the Czech Republic,” Rotbauer said.
On the other hand, people whose immigration is motivated only by generous welfare payments will not be allowed to live on them indefinitely, he noted.
“It is a fact that a certain part of Romanies return home in a couple of months. They often say they do not like living in Canada. For some of them it was not the paradise they imagined. They found out that even in Canada one must earn one's daily bread,” Rotbauer concludes in MfD.