Roma say they're being barred from flights to Canada

May 8, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

Ottawa is being accused of preventing Roma travellers from boarding Canada-bound flights and denying them the possibility of seeking asylum here.

Since the end of last year, advocates and lawyers say a slew of Roma passengers from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — all currently visa-exempted countries — have reported being stopped from boarding flights to Canada via transit points in England, Poland, Belgium and Germany.

The federal government denies that it is to blame. Ottawa says that while it provides assistance and advice to airlines, it's ultimately up to the airlines themselves to decide who boards flights to Canada, and that all travellers coming to the country are subjected to scrutiny and can be denied entry.

Airlines found to have carried an improperly documented foreign national to Canada will be fined up to $3,200 per passenger and are liable for additional removal and medical costs, according to the government’s manual on the obligations of transporters.

"Ninety per cent of these travellers have valid plane tickets, the electronic travel authorization (eTA) issued by Canada and an invitation letter from their friends and relatives in Canada," said Toronto settlement worker Paul St. Clair, who has helped many in the community write up their invitations.

"The interdiction is happening everywhere. I have had 50 Roma families in Toronto coming to us in the last six months, asking me what to do about it, how they can help their relatives come to visit."

While advocates including St. Clair agree that many Roma, who were once known as Gypsies, may intend to come to Canada for asylum, they say Canada cannot stop legitimate refugees from travelling and accessing its asylum system if they have the proper documentation to visit the country and solid grounds to support their need for Canada's protection.

Last year, asylum-seekers from three major source countries of Roma refugees in Canada all had acceptance rates over 50 per cent — Slovakia, 74.6 per cent; Hungary, 66.9 per cent; and the Czech Republic, 56.5 per cent, according to data from the Immigration and Refugee Board. The overall acceptance rate for refugees to Canada was 63 per cent.

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