Article

The “Bogus” Refugee: Roma Asylum Claimants and Discourses of Fraud in Canada’s Bill C-31

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Abstract

The passage of Bill C-31 into Canadian law in June 2012 is part of a discourse created around refugees by the current Government of Canada. Refugees are divided into "good and proper" refugees who live in camps abroad, and the " fraudulent and bogus" refugees who claim asylum at the Canadian border. The new act, Bill C-31 or Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, is analyzed with respect to changes that will result in the systematic exclusion of certain groups of asylum seekers from Canada, based on these discourses of "bogus" and " fraud," even though these groups may include genuine refugees. Drawing on the case of Czech Roma refugee claimants who come to Canada from Europe, this article shows how the Roma come to stand for the perfect "bogus" refugee-a person who wants to cheat the benevolent Canadian system without having grounds for a successful refugee status application. A critical look at the legislation provides new insights into the relations between governmentality and the regimes of citizenship, with the state performing its power in increasingly spectacular ways. Refugees act as the abject Other that legitimizes, legalizes, and reaffirms such state interventions.

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... In the Canadian context, visa policy has been a key practice of refugee interdiction (Dirks, 1995;Gilbert, 2010;Macklin, 2005;Kernerman, 2008;Molnar Diop, 2014;Villegas, 2013). Dirks (1995, pp.51-52) argues that by the late 1980s, officials had settled on visa policy as a tool for managing unwanted refugee arrivals: "the two issues of when and where to impose visa requirements and how to curtail the apparently uncontrolled influx to Canada of undocumented migrants claiming to be refugees had become inexorably connected in the minds of policy makers." ...
... The fall 2007 episode elicited a moral panic about a rush on the border, but the increasing number of refugee claims by Mexicans was identified as a concern as early as 2005 when Mexico became the number one source country of refugee claims made in Canada; by 2008, Mexicans accounted for one quarter of the individuals making claims that year (CIC, 2010b). Mexicans and Czech Roma were singled out as abusers of the system, put forward as evidence that the refugee system needed to be 'reformed' and then used to justify and demonstrate the 'success' of subsequent changes (Gilbert, 2010;Molnar Diop, 2014;Villegas, 2013). The strategic and deliberate mobilisation of the term 'bogus' to describe the claims for protection made by certain people is a crucial aspect of the re-bordering of North America. ...
... For LGBT refugees, there is the added fear and shame of talking openly about their sexuality and/or gender identity (Jordan, 2010). Moreover, they must tell their story under a hostile political and social environment in mainstream Canada that frames a large majority of incoming refugee claimants as 'queue jumpers', 'bogus,' and a threat to Canadian society (Hari, 2014;Diop, 2014;Jantzi, 2014). There is ever-present fear of being misheard, or perceived as not being consistent or credible. ...
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... In the Canadian context, visa policy has been a key practice of refugee interdiction (Dirks, 1995;Gilbert, 2010;Macklin, 2005;Kernerman, 2008;Molnar Diop, 2014;Villegas, 2013). Dirks (1995, pp.51-52) argues that by the late 1980s, officials had settled on visa policy as a tool for managing unwanted refugee arrivals: "the two issues of when and where to impose visa requirements and how to curtail the apparently uncontrolled influx to Canada of undocumented migrants claiming to be refugees had become inexorably connected in the minds of policy makers." ...
... The fall 2007 episode elicited a moral panic about a rush on the border, but the increasing number of refugee claims by Mexicans was identified as a concern as early as 2005 when Mexico became the number one source country of refugee claims made in Canada; by 2008, Mexicans accounted for one quarter of the individuals making claims that year (CIC, 2010b). Mexicans and Czech Roma were singled out as abusers of the system, put forward as evidence that the refugee system needed to be 'reformed' and then used to justify and demonstrate the 'success' of subsequent changes (Gilbert, 2010;Molnar Diop, 2014;Villegas, 2013). The strategic and deliberate mobilisation of the term 'bogus' to describe the claims for protection made by certain people is a crucial aspect of the re-bordering of North America. ...
... For example, it is a common trend for those who are unsuccessful in their claims for asylum to be discursively presented in the UK media as "bogus" or "fraudulent" (Philo, Briant, & Donald, 2013). The discursive binary of "bogus" claimants versus genuine refugees has also been used in Canada to support more restrictive legislation (as discussed by Molnar Diop, 2014, exploring the treatment of Roma refugee claimants). In the Canadian media it has also been found that constructions of "bogus" applicants tend to arise most frequently around the time of and in response to "episodic events" relating to individual asylum-seeking arrivals, which are then linked with broader policy discussions (Lawlor & Tolley, 2017). ...
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... 13 This is captured by the notion of the bogus refugee. For a detailed engagement with the concept see,Kaye (1998), Neumayer (2005,Diop (2014), among others. ...
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... The emerging trend, regarding the migration of Roma shows similar discursive practices, which are repeated with some variations from one country to another. If migrants are perceived as Romani, then there is a great chance of being characterized in various ways, for instance, as 'bogus asylum seekers' (Guy, 2003;Molnar Diop, 2013), 'ethnotourist', 'asylum adventurers' (Vašečka & Vašečka, 2003), 'poverty migrants', 'intrusive beggars' (Benedik, 2010), and'excessively mobile', 'nomadic' (van Baar, 2011) and 'welfare parasites' (Kóczé & Trehan, 2009). The evocative language creates epistemological and rhetorical borders between 'normal' and 'abnormal' migrants, thereby distinguishing Romani migrants from white migrants in the EU. ...
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... Policy and discourse in Canada had been shifting to greater criminalization of immigration in recent decades (Aiken, Lyon and Thorburn 2014). In 2013 the federal Conservative government introduced Bill C-31 (known as Protecting Canada's Immigration Security Act, House of Commons 2013), which separated out different refugee claimant groups by country of origin and changed their entitlements (Diop 2014;Huot et al. 2016). The policy and media discourse around these changes focused on the familiar themes of security threats, economic threats, and the legitimacy of refugee claims, and remained dominant until 2015. ...
... Through this measure, persons claiming asylum from a DCO face stricter asylum measures 6 and an erosion of their rights. 7 In order to justify the restrictive revisions to the IFHP, government officials relied upon a construction of refugee claimants as "different" subjects within the context of humanitarian assistance and refugee protection. Offering refugee protection is inherently humanitarian, however, as Casas-Cortes et al. note, protection and support is provided to those who "obey and behave as demanded by the protection regime. ...
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... Categories that simplify the multi-layered reasons for migration have the effect of undermining the human rights of migrants (Bakewell, 2011;Zetter, 2015). The hierarchies of classifications based on worthiness, legitimacy, and genuineness lead to justifications of restrictive migration policies (Adelson, 2004;Diop, 2014). Moreover, the migrant or refugee categories can limit or expand access to rights since "labels transform realities", determining perceptions of who deserves inclusion and in what form (Sajjad, 2018, p. 41). ...
... But in Canada, asylum seekers are typically viewed far less positively than resettled refugees, and are often portrayed as economic migrants who are manipulating the immigration system (e.g. Diop 2014;Molnar 2016). The increased, and inaccurate, discussion of "illegal asylum seekers" and misplaced fears around the burden imposed by the entry of fewer than 30,000 asylum seekers in a country that hosts 400,000 landed immigrants and temporary foreign workers every year may also be having negative spillover effects on attitudes towards resettled refugees. ...
... The emerging trend, regarding the migration of Roma shows similar discursive practices, which are repeated with some variations from one country to another. If migrants are perceived as Romani, then there is a great chance of being characterized in various ways, for instance, as 'bogus asylum seekers' (Guy, 2003;Molnar Diop, 2013), 'ethnotourist', 'asylum adventurers' (Vašečka & Vašečka, 2003), 'poverty migrants', 'intrusive beggars' (Benedik, 2010), and'excessively mobile', 'nomadic' (van Baar, 2011) and 'welfare parasites' (Kóczé & Trehan, 2009). The evocative language creates epistemological and rhetorical borders between 'normal' and 'abnormal' migrants, thereby distinguishing Romani migrants from white migrants in the EU. ...
Chapter
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... 13 This is captured by the notion of the bogus refugee. For a detailed engagement with the concept see,Kaye (1998), Neumayer (2005,Diop (2014), among others. ...
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... Good examples of such cases are those pertaining to persecution due to one's religious or political beliefs, or sexual orientation. This means that applicants who have suffered from this type of persecution cannot always prove it, or that the evidence they provide is not necessarily regarded as persuasive (Giametta, 2018;Jansen & Spijkerboer, 2011; see also Diop, 2014). On the flipside, and as there is almost no other legalisation route for economic immigrants, there are also some applicants who use such stories to 'cheat' the system, precisely because they are difficult to prove. ...
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... Categories that simplify the multi-layered reasons for migration have the effect of undermining the human rights of migrants (Bakewell, 2011;Zetter, 2015). The hierarchies of classifications based on worthiness, legitimacy, and genuineness lead to justifications of restrictive migration policies (Adelson, 2004;Diop, 2014). Moreover, the migrant or refugee categories can limit or expand access to rights since "labels transform realities", determining perceptions of who deserves inclusion and in what form (Sajjad, 2018, p. 41). ...
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... While researching narratives about migration, I discovered a set of similar notions pertaining to something that can be labelled as fraud discourse (on fraud discourse and migration see Haynes et al. 2010;Power at al. 2012). In Serbia, as well as elsewhere in Europe, it was very common to hear or read narrations that questioned the intentions of migrants: fake asylum seekers, for example, were perceived as those who used the asylum system as a means for achieving something other than international protection, either as a way to enter a country, legalize their stay, or take advantage of various benefits it could bring, including "pocket money", free accommodation, food, money for voluntary return, etc. Similarly, bogus refugees were perceived as those who pretended to be running from wars in their countries of origin, and who did not appear to be "really vulnerable" (Molnar Diop 2014;Neumayer 2005). The dis-vulnerability sometimes was ascribed to their gender, age and general appearance (they were "too male", too young, fit, strong, happy, determined), sometimes it was ascribed to their "true" nationality (they were seen as pretending to be from war torn countries, while they had "actually" been members of militant groups, government, terrorists, etc.). ...
Chapter
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The arrival of thousands of European Roma seeking refugee status in Canada elicited a range of legislative and policy instruments that severely restrict their acceptance and create conditions antagonistic to further admissions. Interventions have included visa restrictions, actions by Immigration and Refugee Board, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act followed by the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, and ministerial rhetoric about the illegitimacy of Roma as refugees. Other factors have involved interpretations of persecution in relation to the Geneva Convention and Protocol, and the implications of the conditions required for membership to the European Union. These political circumstances in large part determine Canadian acceptance rates for the Roma. Their systematic exclusion is reminiscent of the historical treatment of other groups due to institutional racism. In the new racism, however, refugee law and policy is racist in effect while evading the language of race.
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Immigration policies and the treatment of immigrants and refugees are contentious issues involving uncertainty and unease. The media may take advantage of this uncertainty to create a crisis mentality in which immigrants and refugees are portrayed as “enemies at the gate” who are attempting to invade Western nations. Although it has been suggested that such depictions promote the dehumanization of immigrants and refugees, there has been little direct evidence for this claim. Our program of research addresses this gap by examining the effects of common media portrayals of immigrants and refugees on dehumanization and its consequences. These portrayals include depictions that suggest that immigrants spread infectious diseases, that refugee claimants are often bogus, and that terrorists may gain entry to western nations disguised as refugees. We conclude by discussing the implications of the findings for understanding how uncertainty may lead to dehumanization, and for establishing government policies and practices that counteract such effects.
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Under the Vichy regime, nomads were forced into assigned residences, sent to concentration camps, and treated as "undesirable" members of the national community. Ordinary citizens supported such actions and petitioned local authorities to remove the burdensome population from their towns, citing both the ideals of the National Revolution and the difficult material situation. Surprisingly, the Vichy government continued to argue for nomad assimilability throughout the war. This article explores the historical continuities in the treatment of Gypsies in France, Vichy's exclusionary politics, and public opinion to argue that attitudes toward so-called undesirables cannot be explained solely by racism or xenophobia. Shortages directly affected daily interactions in ways that often put local and national objectives at odds when it came to the treatment of Gypsies.
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Using examples of migration of Mixtecs from Oaxaca and of Mexican nationals in general across the US–Mexican border, this article explores and illustrates the proposition that the political importance of social borders varies directly with the degree to which they serve two basic missions. The first of these missions is classificatory in the sense of defining, categorizing, and otherwise affecting the identities that are circumscribed and divided by borders and that cross them. Such kinds of identities are ethnicity, nationality, the cultural experience, markers of social class and so on. The second mission is also classificatory, but in the sense of affecting the economic CLASS positions and relationships of migrants who cross borders. This second mission of borders is effected by differentially filtering and transforming forms of economic value that flow across them and between identities defined by them. It is argued that these two complementary processes – classification of identities and CLASSification (uneven value exchange) – are the primary de facto missions of significant borders.
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Abstract Apocalypticism and millennialism are the dark and light sides of a historical sensibility transfixed by the possibility of imminent catastrophe, cosmic redemption, spiritual transformation, and a new world order. This essay briefly surveys work by anthropologists and like-minded scholars that focuses directly on endtime movements. It then reviews at more length a varied literature focusing on American apocalypticisms and millennialisms. Turning to contemporary America, we survey the ways in which an apocalyptic/millennial sensibility-as a mode of attention, mode of knowing, and voice-has come to inhabit and structure modern American life across a wide range of registers.
Article
The Nazi assault on Gypsies as an undesirable group was launched in the first months of the Third Reich. By the end of 1933, the outlines of a policy of total removal and, if possible, extinction were in place. Over the course of the first year of Hitler's rule, Gypsies had been numbered among those destined for mass sterilization. The goal of preventing their propagation had been pronounced on July 14 when the new cabinet issued a statement (with the force of law) proclaiming the concept of Lebensunwertesleben —life unworthy of living—a category of person that, at the time, specifically and indiscriminately included and embraced all Gypsies. Shortly thereafter, exploratory contacts were made with the League of Nations to assess the practicability of allocating one or two Polynesian islands to which the Gypsies could be deported. By September 1933, the Ministry of Interior announced a more realizable preliminary plan to arrest persons with no fixed and permanent addresses (i.e. primarily Gypsies) and to incarcerate them in special detention camps as a means of removing them from the mainstream of society. There the Gypsies would be rendered preemptively criminally harmless, (since they were described as a potential detriment to the general German population), and biologically “futureless” (zukunftloss) by way of mass sterilization. In retrospect, the central ingredients for a formula of genocide, for the complete extermination of the Gypsies, were all in place: an ideology which deprived them of the basic right to life; a process of law by edict, which subjected them to totalitarian rule; a hypothetical plan to deport them abroad, and a more concrete one to isolate them from the citizenry, by segregating them in prison-like compounds, deprived of all civil rights; and a technology of physical mutilation that would deny them progeny and a link with a biological future, by literally destroying the unconceived next generation. Thus, a skeletal blueprint for the genocide of Gypsies by the racial architects of the Nazi regime had been drawn up by the end of 1933 well before the first Gypsies in Germany were rounded up in January 1934.
Article
This paper provides new insights into the process of undocumented border crossing by examining both men and women in the process. We investigate differences in the ways in which men and women make their way across the well-guarded Mexico-U.S. border, and the extent to which men and women by the end of the 1990s were similar to, or different from, their counterparts who crossed before 1986 and the implementation of immigration policy designed to reduce undocumented migration. We find substantial differences in how men and women crossed the border without legal documents and in their chances of being apprehended. Our analysis makes clear that shifts in U.S. immigration policy after 1986 have led to women's greater reliance on the assistance of paid smugglers to cross without documents but men were more likely to cross alone. Moreover, immediately after 1986, women on first U.S. trips faced higher risks of being apprehended compared to women who migrated in the early 1980s, but men faced lower risks. After accumulating some U.S. experience, however, both women and men faced lower risks of being detected after 1986 compared to earlier in that decade.
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This essay examines the rise of the honeybee as a tool and metaphor in the U.S. “war on terror.” At present, the largest source of funding for apiary research comes from the U.S. military as part of efforts to remake entomology in an age of empire. This funding seeks to make new generations of bees sensitive to specific chemical traces—everything from plastic explosives, to the tritium used in nuclear weapons development, to land mines. Moreover, in an explicit attempt to redesign modern battlefield techniques, the Pentagon has returned to the form and metaphor of the “swarm” to combat what it takes to be the unpredictability of the enemy in the war on terror. At the same time, honeybee colonies are collapsing. Rethinking material assemblages of bees and humans in the war on terror, this essay moves beyond the constrained logic and limited politics of many epidemiological investigations of colony collapse. Honeybees are situated within a more expansive understanding of the role of and consequences for the animal in modern empire building.
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Despite their stated commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention, liberal democratic states routinely interdict refugees, such as through the use of visa requirements, effectively blocking them from reaching their borders. How do liberal democratic states navigate this contradictory terrain? To answer this question, this article explores situations where normally routine and often invisible interdiction practices break down. Canada's approach to Roma arriving from the Czech Republic and Hungary between 1997 and 2001 is an illuminating example of such breakdown and repair, providing a rare glimpse into how one liberal democratic state manages its own interdiction contradictions.
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Czech attitudes towards the Roma have sullied, even damaged the positive image of the Czechs abroad. Perhaps of foremost importance, and one that underpins these issues, is that the Romani question presents some insights into how the Czechs see themselves, and, in this sense, Czech attitudes towards the Roma are iconoclastic for domestic and foreign perceptions of Czech national identity. While no study could possibly encompass and assess all incidents in Czech-Romani relations, nor embody all popular, media and political views, this article seeks to provide at least the contours of those relations. It does not aim to identify or explain sources of a possible Czech liberalism, but primarily seeks to consider the nature of Czech-Romani relations by examining and categorising Czech responses to the problems, and then by offering some explanations for the nature of these difficult relations. The article does not seek to apportion blame to any one side. It begins with the paradox of Czech values and relations with the Romani minority.