Romanipe in collaboration with The ERGO Network Call the Canadian Government to Lift Visa Require”ments on Romania and Bulgaria

On Friday May 19, 2016 European Parliament President, Martin Schulz announced that the Canadian government’s continued insistence on imposing visa requirements for travelers from Romania and Bulgaria has put a strain on the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Current disagreements regarding the ratification of CETA are reminiscent of the pressures which stalled the agree- ment under the previous government and eventually led to several legislative and policy measures aiming to restrict the acceptance of Roma claimants.

One such policy was Bill C-31. Among other provisions, the Bill allows the Minister responsible to unilaterally des- ignate countries as “safe countries of origin.” Refugee claimants from these countries are subjected to a discrimina- tory judicial process for their claims. Countries where Roma come from were specifically cited as “safe.”

In spite of the high level of documentation of these cases by credible organizations such as Amnesty International and the European Commission, previous and current Canadian immigration policies continue to treat Roma as a European ethnic group which is not persecuted.

Despite increasing acceptance numbers, cases of racial profiling continue against Roma by Canadian authorities. In 2015, twelve Hungarian Roma with valid travel documents were prevented from boarding flights to Canada on the alleged ground of not possessing proper documentation to enter the country due to their Roma ethnicity. In 2014, John Manley, head of the influential Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said “more needs to be done at Euro- pean airports to block bogus refugee claimants from actually boarding flights for Canada. We can’t lift the visa until we find other ways to avoid this influx of refugee claimants.”

By insisting on imposing visa requirements on countries such as Bulgaria, as well as maintaining the implementation of Bill C-31, the Trudeau government is continuing the legacy of the previous government by closing its borders to Roma suffering from discrimination and oppression.

Today, we are hopeful that our current government will uphold its promise to bring Canada back to its humanitarian roots by recognizing Roma as an essential component of Canadian multiculturalism and end racial profiling and dis- crimination of Roma asylum seekers.

Romanipe takes this opportunity to reiterate our request to the Canadian government to recognize the current dis- crimination faced by Roma populations in Europe and end the discriminatory legislative and policy measures re- stricting the acceptance of Roma claimants introduced by the previous government. Romanipe therefore calls on the Canadian government to lift the visa requirements imposed on Bulgaria and Romania, and requests national gov- ernments in the EU to take concrete measures to eradicate anti-Roma persecution.

ERGO Network brings together 28 members from across Europe and supports organisations with a common per- spective on Roma grassroots empowerment and equal citizenship, and to challenge stereotypes and combat stigmati- zation