Minister Chris Alexander: Let the Pusuma family stay in Canada
The Pusuma family needs our help right now to stay in Canada, and stay safe. Jozsef, Timea, and their daughter Viktoria, fled Hungary 4 years ago. They came to Canada as refugees, after Jozsef began to receive death threats, and the family was attacked outside their home. Jozsef is a high-level target for those who hate Roma because he worked for a prominent EU Parliamentarian, known for speaking out against the racism Roma face.
I'm imploring Minister Alexander to allow them to leave Sanctuary and stay in Canada by granting them a Temporary Residence Permit while they wait for justice from the Immigration and Refugee system.
Their refugee claim was rejected three years ago, but they were represented by a lawyer who failed to properly present their case, including by neglecting to file crucial evidence that showed why they are in such danger back home.
They have been living in Sanctuary in a church in Toronto for over two years. Imagine being Lulu, a five year old little girl who has had no opportunity to go outside, let alone attend preschool or Kindegarten. She desperately needs all our support, big and small! If you and/or yout children would like to help, here is how: www.freelulu.ca
In the meantime, the Pusumas have made a formal complaint against the lawyer for his incompetent representation. Their complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada is one of many complaints about this same lawyer, who has represented - and lost - many, many Hungarian Roma refugee claims. In late February, after a two year investigation, the Law Society concluded that there was evidence of professional misconduct in 14 different cases, including the Pusumas. They have called the Pusumas' former lawyer in for a formal hearing about his incompetence.
While the Law Society's incompetence finding against the former lawyer is an important step, it is not a final conclusion: there still needs to be a hearing, and this could take six to twelve months, or even longer, to conclude. In the meantime, the family is stuck in a church, waiting for justice. Most or all the other 13 complainants have, it seems, already been deported, despite the Law Society's investigation of incompetent representation by their former lawyer.
Being born in Hungary with strong ties there still, I am painfully aware of the intolerance, racism, and violence facing Roma. Canada officially lists Hungary as a "safe country," and it may be for many; however, it is well known internationally that Roma are persecuted. Germany for example, will not deport Roma to Hungary.
I know this is a politically difficult issue, and the Canadian Government has been reluctant to accept Roma as refugees, but this is a family that will truly face a terrible fate if sent home. Jozsef's high-level political work for the Roma makes him a prominent target, and he will face threats on his life if he returns.
When news got out that the family was living in Canada as refugees, several Hungarian newspapers published articles calling Jozsef a traitor. This family is clearly in danger if they go back.
I met them 4 years ago in Christie Pitts Park, close to the shelter where they were stayed when they arrived. Our families have been friends since, and our children played together until the family went into hiding. They are a wonderful family who face a terrible fate if they go home. Their only desire is to build a future here where they do no longer have to fear for their lives.
A true close friend of the Pusuma
- Minister Chris Alexander
Dear Minister Alexander,
I just signed a petition asking you to please allow the Pusuma family to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds.
I’m proud of Canada’s history of granting asylum to those facing persecution in their own countries and granting humanitarian relief to deserving cases, but I am troubled by statements made by your Government saying Roma are not real refugees. I understand this is a politically difficult issue for you in many ways – but you must realize that many Roma, particularly from Hungary, face dangerous situations back home.
The Pusumas are one such Roma family facing a terrible fate if they return to Hungary. Theirs is an especially unusual case because Jozsef Pusuma worked for a prominent former EU Parliamentarian known for vocally advocating against Roma discrimination. This made Jozsef and his family a key target for those who persecute Roma to the point where he was receiving death threats and was even once beaten outside the family home. Now, because their case was publicized in the Toronto Star, many newspapers in Hungary have picked up the story, portraying them in a negative light, and making their situation even more dangerous if they are sent home.
Because the family’s refugee claim was rejected without consideration of key evidence, they have now been forced to take sanctuary in a Toronto church. They cannot stay there forever, but if they are sent back Jozsef will almost certainly face threats on his life, and his wife and young daughter will be subjected to extreme discrimination, violence and abuse.
Please allow them to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds and grant them permanent residence.
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