June 15th, 1998|
Eleven Czech Romanies returned home on Sunday after
several months in Canadian exile. All of them,
including a mother of five who was earlier reported
to have been expelled by Canadian immigration
authorities, told reporters at Prague International
Airport that they were returning of their own
accord, for private reasons. Radio Prague's Libor Kubik reports
The Romanies said they had emigrated for fear of racism in the
Czech Republic and because they felt that their children were
not safe in this country. All of them said they had homes to
return to in the Moravian city of Brno.
Canada would have granted them the status of refugees, they
said. Most of them maintained they were happy in Canada, but
decided to return when they learned that their extended
families would be denied entry, or allowed to join them.
Also, they were homesick.
Roma activist Ondrej Gina can understand their motives:
"Their inability to cope with separation from their loved ones
must have been a factor. We Romanies believe in strong family
bonds and in the sense of belonging. That's why some of them
are coming home today," Ondrej Gina told Czech Radio.
In the period from 1996 to last October, more than 1,000
Romanies from the Czech Republic emigrated to Canada and
applied for a refugee status there. Only a few dozen
applications have been processed to date. In these cases, the
Canadian Immigration authorities recognised the applicants'
fears of racism as substantiated.
A massive Roma emigration wave occurred last summer, after a
private Czech TV station broadcast a feature portraying the
life of Romanies in Canada in bright colours.
Last October, Canada re-imposed the visa requirement on all
visitors from the Czech Republic.
According to a report in the Toronto Star daily, about 600
Czech asylum seekers have now returned home. However, it was
not possible to confirm this figure from another source.