Rule changes threaten Roma refugee claimants, charges Alberta woman

A Red Deer woman is looking for help fighting new immigration rules that make it more difficult for Roma people from Hungary to claim refugee status in Canada.

Red Deer woman fighting rules that place Hungary on safe-county list

A Red Deer woman is looking for help in fighting new immigration rules that make it more difficult for Roma people from Hungary to claim refugee status in Canada.

A group of Roma protesters demonstrate at an event attended by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in Toronto on Nov. 4, 2012. (The Canadian Press)

"They're throwing molatov cocktails into Roma houses in the neighbourhoods," says Zoe Duval, a 22-year-old Romani who was adopted by Canadian parents.

"What these Roma are doing is selling everything they have, they're getting on a plane, they're getting to Canada safely, they're claiming refugee status, they're saying what's going on in Hungary, but now their plans are being denied and they're being sent back now."

Hungary is now on a list of countries the Canadian government considers safe, making it difficult for Roma people to make refugee claims despite numerous reports of ethnic attacks.

Who are the Roma?

The Roma are an ethnic group that originated in India, leaving the subcontinent about 800 years ago. Over the centuries, they moved gradually westward and dispersed all over Europe.

A stateless minority, the Roma people, sometimes referred to as "gypsies," have suffered centuries of persecution. About 250,000 Roma, whom the Nazis deemed racially inferior, died during the Holocaust.

The rules give Roma people less time to apply for asylum and they can be sent back to Hungary before an appeal is heard, she said.

"We need to fight this," said Duval who is looking to Roma Albertans to help set up a non-profit group.

Melaena Allen Trottier, a University of Alberta student studying Roma people for doctoral a thesis in musicology, has joined Duval's cause.

"It's not offical policy that Hungarians are allowed to burn down the houses of the Roma, but in practice this is what's happening," she said.

Canada's Immigration Department said Hungarian Roma have redress if their human rights aren't respected in that country and no changes to Canada's policy are planned.

With files from CBC's James Hees