By Ian Beeching
On December 15 the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced a list of 27 Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) of which refugee applicants will be given half the time to prepare for a hearing in 30-45 days, will have no right to appeal at the Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB and will be denied even the most basic of health services. Should the Federal Court be asked to review a negative decision, no stay of removal will be granted, effectively negating the court before it has the chance to deliberate. “Denying claimants access to an appeal, based solely on the country from which they have come, is unequal and unfair treatment. It may lead to mistakes going uncorrected and refugees being forcibly returned to a risk of persecution,” Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International Canada.
Countries on the list are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America.
Criteria for a nation to make the list are at least 60 per cent of claimants from the country must have withdrawn and abandoned their own claims, or least 75 per cent of claims from a country have been withdrawn, abandoned, and rejected by the IRB. Minister Kenney asserts “we are ensuring that genuine refugees fleeing persecution will receive protection more quickly, while, at the same time, failed asylum claimants from generally safe countries will be removed much faster.”
Despite the auspice of creating a streamlined system, Minister Kenney has in fact dismissed the very real human rights abuses of countries on the list including the United States of America and Hungary. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, sated the DCO’s is “arbitrary, unfair, and unconstitutional,” calling it a “travesty” that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
European history has been full of discrimination against ethnic minorities and even the most appalling atrocities of the Second World War were not enough to shake Europe of its racial prejudices. The Roma (gypsies) people have historically been enslaved, subjected to ethnic cleansing, persecution, discrimination, and prejudice, continuing to date to face discrimination and poverty throughout Europe–including Hungary where they are the largest minority.
In 2011, more than 4,000 Hungarian nationals applied to Canada as refugees (representing 17 per cent of claimants), and 20 per cent of those to receive full hearings were accepted as legitimate refugees. Hungary being on the DOC puts severe limitations on legitimate Roma refugees seeking asylum.
Roma face constant threat of eviction throughout Europe, segregation in education and as late as 2004 in several countries Roma women were forcibly sterilized. The independent ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, of the Czech government identified dozens of cases of coercive sterilization between 1979 and 2001. The Czech Republic has been called on by the Council of Europe to end segregation of Romani in schools. The European Court has found the teaching of limited curriculum in segregated schools to be discriminatory.
In France “Repeated forced evictions have disastrous consequences on Roma’s health, education and ability to secure an adequate standard of living. Forced out of one informal settlement after another they end up in ever poorer housing conditions, forced to sleep on the streets and in tents until they manage to build another makeshift home,” said John Dalhuisen Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Kenney has stated it is suspicious the Roma seek refugee in Canada when they have free movement in the EU “The European Union—we’re talking about countries that have protections for human rights every bit as strong as Canada’s, countries like Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom—all of these countries believe that claims from Hungary are manifestly unfounded.” But according to Peter Showler, director of a refugee law research forum at University of Ottawa: “The fact of the matter is they cannot seek asylum in other European Union countries. There is an agreement in place that you cannot seek asylum in another EU country. That’s a straightforward fact. That’s a binding agreement among EU countries.” The longest a Roma can be in another EU country without employment is three months. “They are undereducated, stigmatized Roma from Hungary. Their chances of finding employment in these other countries is very low.”
After the 2010 election of Hungarian nationalist party FIDESZ in 2010, a Roma refugee applicant reported his people being scapegoats for the country’s weakened economy. Hungarian police subjected him to random street searches. He reported discrimination at work and his children would be beaten up at school for being Roma. In a youtube video from August 2012 neo-nazi groups can be seen marching against the Roma.
The Case of Bradley Manning
Despite the torture method of water-boarding being officially banned in America in 2009 the legacy of torture continues. Case in point is the handling of accused wikileaks whistle blower Bradley Manning.
Veteran constitutional attorney Michael Ratner explains Mannings description of being kept in a cage in Kuwait “There were two cages. He said they were like animal cages. They were in a tent alone, just these two cages, side by side. One of them had whatever possessions he may have had; one of them, he was in, with a little bed for a rack and a toilet, dark, in this cage for almost two months.” The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez has stated that “solitary confinement is a harsh measure which may cause serious psychological and physiological adverse effects on individuals regardless of their specific conditions.”
Bradly Manning describes the effect of being caged “For me, I stopped keeping track. I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages.”
Further solitary confinement of nine months at Quantico military prison was justified as suicide watch despite the forensic psychiatrist at the base Capt William Hocter stating he was at no such risk: “I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this. It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had no impact.” Prison regulations state that “when prisoners are no longer considered to be suicide risks by a medical officer, they shall be returned to appropriate quarters.”
For the nine months Manning had little to no contact with other people, was kept in his cell for more than 23 hours a day, was checked every five minutes, slept on a suicide mattress with no bedding, had his prescription glasses taken away, had the lights kept on at night, and had the toilet paper removed. Manning received such treatment for being accused of downloading and distributing classified material of which 4.2 million Americans had security clearance.
The United States remains a military aggressor in the world. From the illegal war and occupation of Iraq under false pretext, the bombing of Pakistan and continued occupation of Afghanistan to the extrajudicial assassinations of its own citizens abroad there is a clear obligation for soldiers to refuse orders under the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Principles.
On June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009 Canada’s Parliament Voted “that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.” Despite this the Harper government continues to deny refuge to American war resisters–ignoring Parliament, imposing Operational Bulletin 202 to flag them as “criminally inadmissable”, and now putting them on a list of “safe” countries–in order to deport them to jail in the US.
When Kenney went after war resister Kimberly Rivera, there was an outpouring of opposition, which in just two weeks organized demonstrations across the country and 20,000 signatures against her deportation. This broad-based organizing–mobilizing trade unions, student organizations, and faith and community groups–needs to expand in order to stop Kenney’s anti-refugee policies.