Hindus have termed Canadian government billboards in Hungary targeting Roma (Gypsy) asylum-seekers as highly inappropriate and blatant racism.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that this unprecedented billboard and other media campaign in Miskolc (second largest urban center of Hungary in northeast), which reportedly had higher concentration of Roma community and home of many Canadian refugee applicants, with such an unwelcoming tone was prejudiced, intolerant and racist.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, suggested that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should live the life of a Roma in Miskolc for few weeks to realize, recognize and understand the rights violations and maltreatment of Roma in Hungary and Europe and the apartheid conditions they faced day after day.
Rajan Zed questioned the targeting of the voiceless and helpless Roma community by Canada in its campaign to dissuade would-be asylum-seekers, who faced xenophobia in Hungary and were the most persecuted in Europe. Why the Canada’s reputation of country welcoming world refugees did not apply to Roma? Zed asked.
It was unfortunate that Canada was spending taxpayer’s money on a campaign which besides billboards, also reportedly included newspapers, radio-spots, and bus-shelter notices; and which smelled of racism, Zed noted.
Rajan Zed pointed out that in Hungary, despite various government initiatives, Roma reportedly continued to face blatant discrimination, shanty town living, an atmosphere of hostility, huge unemployment rate, lower life expectancy, prejudice, significantly higher school dropout rate, racism, stereotyping, school segregation, social exclusion, mistrust, human rights violations, etc.
According to United States Department of State report on Human Rights Practices in Hungary for 2011: “…Roma were discriminated against in almost all fields of life, particularly in employment, education, housing, penal institutions, and access to public places, such as restaurants and bars. During the year, right-wing extremist groups continued to incite violence against Roma and held marches around the country aimed at intimidating local Romani communities.”
This report further says: …members of the Romani community were regularly sentenced for minor offenses…that were usually ignored when committed by non-Roma …police and municipalities selectively applied laws against the Roma to keep them segregated and restrict their freedom of movement…courts increasingly used the provision of the criminal code on racism to convict Roma, whereas the law was designed to protect members of minority groups…approximately 85 percent of working-age Roma were unemployed…municipalities used a variety of techniques to prevent Roma from living in more desirable urban neighborhoods.