Discrimination at Budapest Airport by Canadian officials

The Cornwall Newswatch, a small Canadian news site from eastern Ontario, published a letter this week from reader Frank Marton, which details increasingly common and disturbing discriminatory practices at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport, against Hungarian citizens looking to visit Canada. A few months ago, similar incidents against Hungarian passport holders (especially, but not exclusively, those who officials presumed were Roma), occurred on a regular basis at the airport in Vienna. But since Air Transat and SkyGreece launched a new route between Toronto, Montreal and Budapest, Hungarians seeking to travel oversees directly from Budapest-Ferihegy have often been victims of blatant discrimination and, it would appear, racial profiling.

The indignity suffered by Mr. Marton’s family at the hands of officials working for the Government of Canada at Liszt Ferenc International Airport is not unique. We are sharing his letter below, and HFP will be contacting Canada’s embassy in Budapest, to find out more about what happened and which Canadian diplomats may have been involved.

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A Canadian Air Transat flight takes off from Budapest Airport. Photo: Magyar Közlekedés Online.

A Canadian Air Transat flight takes off from Budapest Airport. Photo: Magyar Közlekedés Online.

It is hard to find a more grotesque, insulting or degrading system than the screening of unwanted individuals from entering Canada by immigration officials. This time the long arm of this office went too far. Several of the would be visitors to Canada have been prevented from even boarding the airplane that would have taken them straight from Budapest to Montreal. Representatives of the Canadian embassy started picking off people with proper (EU) passports and a letter of invitation, lined up at the check in desk. Without warning or any other notification, two hours before takeoff Canadian (Hungarian and English speaking) embassy personnel demanded from the Hungarian travellers to produce three thousand dollars in cash and the letter of invitation signed by a notary as an ID.

On July 30th, my wife’s daughter, found herself in this situation. As Agnes was anxiously awaiting to visit her mother, embassy officials prevented her from boarding the plane. Unfortunately, many people found themselves in this situation including an entire soccer team and a young boy who was coming to Canada to receive special medical treatment.

Restricting legal freedom of movement brings back memories of the iron curtain era. Ironically, Hungary was the forerunner in abolishing the iron curtain in 1989. Shortly after this date, Hungary lifted requirements for a visa.

I, among many others have annually hosted relatives and friends, acting as tour guides, for many years spending their vacation and money. While in Canada they have observed this country’s rules and law, and enjoyed their stay.

The disappointment (not to speak of the financial loss of $1000.00 US) my wife and her daughter felt in not having arrived in Montreal on the 30th of July is immeasurable and left a scar in our soul that leaves us very apprehensive of our respect of the Canadian immigration system.

In the meantime, we are at a loss of what recourse to take. It is obvious, based on the above, this action is the result of one or two of the representatives from the consulate in Budapest, Hungary. They trampled upon human rights, causing us many sleepless nights. Beware the intricacies of eastern European travels. Respected Canadian laws around the world may not be sufficient in every situation.

Frank Marton
Cornwall

18 Comments

  1. Judith Kopacsi says:

    The best course of action in this case is to turn to the Hungarian Helsinki Watch. They have lawyers, who deal with cases like these. Good luck.

  2. I would also recommend taking this to the Canadian media. 16×9 did a show on the Roma, the billboards in Miskolc and the Canadian governments actions a couple of years ago, they may be interested in this.

  3. “…….abolishing the iron curtain in 1989. Shortly after this date, Hungary lifted requirements for a visa.”

    Hungary has never abolished the iron curtain and never lifted requirements for a visa. Countries don’t do that, countries don’t act, people do that, the then political leadership which was different at that time and is different now. Also, Hungary once was a republic and THAT is abolished now with all the old once hatred things like iron fences or tight Russian affairs (secret nuclear deal) restored.
    The country is the same, just the leadership has changed.

  4. Robert Szucs says:

    By any chance does it have anything to do with, how hungarian romas are behaving in the great country of Canada?

  5. Judith Kopacsi says:

    Robert, not any worst than other nationalities.

  6. Seeing Robert’s post and many other similar posts in the previous articles I think something’s gone very wrong with many posters standpoint.

    Not just Robert but very many posters and very many citizens state that romas, the immigrants are dangerous and are jeopardizing the western civilization and economy with their behavior and with their mere presence. Is this true? Yes, certainly a flood of migrants or romas can put an unbearable burden on the civilized countries that worked hard for their wealth. Only a fool would say they should be allowed to move uncontrolled in great number and should be allowed to do anything they want and suck away the wealth of other countries.

    Yes that’s all very nice and true but they are just missing the point. It’s not about that. There’s something more important.

    (A). Not only migrants do harm meanwhile many of the above mentioned are pretty nice and useful members of the societies and stigmatizing romas or immigrants all indiscriminately lumping them together is xenophobia and racism.

    (B). Doing so and the society is accepting this as a solution gives the politicians and the elected leaders of the societies a chance for arbitrary actions instead of proper and lawful solutions.

    (C). Once the people, the societies accept this above mentioned two-faced behavior they give a powerful weapon in the hands of their leaders that they will even turn against their own citizens and can arbitrary decide who is good and who is bad. Yes, they give them a weapon that they never be able to take back from them.

    HFP, the writer of this piece, peace and social organization, and many online publications are not fighting for one single person or for the herd of poor migrants to allow them to bring down our wealth. They are fighting they are speaking out for real solution that works instead of fear mongering and hate speech and arbitrary action. That’s a huge difference. A huge one. They are not doing this for the romas, for the migrants they are doing this for all of us.

  7. The Canadian embassy should distance itself from this kind of profiling and the requirement of cash at the airport. It should also clarify who did this and why. Previous unfounded refugee claims cannot serve as justification. Such claims should be examined in Canada. By democratic rules, Canadian citizens can demand an explanation from their authorities, alert their MPs, human rights organizations, the national press, etc. Hungary and the EU are also responsible for what Canadian officials are allegedly allowed to do at Liszt Ferihegy. Please, keep us informed.

  8. In case of no satisfactory Canadian official clarification and Hungary’s reluctance to investigate, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights (Nils Muiznieks), the European Commission’s Vice-President for Fundamental Rights (Viviane Reding), the Human Rights Office of the OSCE, which Canada is also member of, can be contacted, or ultimately the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights. These are familiar with anti-Roma discrimination, and so are many democratically-minded Members of the European Parliament, who may raise this issue.
    I have heard of no such profiling, let alone cash requirement regarding ESTA travelers to the USA. I wonder if Canadian officials profile, even indirectly through airline employees, in any other European airport than Vienna and Budapest.

  9. Anyone who wonders why this has occurred should head to the Jameson and King area of Toronto. For the previous 6-7 years, scores of Roma have been coming to Hungary, claiming refugee status in order to obtain welfare. A large number of them have been living there. They do not work, and make up false stories in the hopes of validating their refugee claim, in order to continue receiving their welfare payments, and not having to work. While staying here, not being a citizen, they get more money from the government than retirees who have worked all their life, receive free healthcare, including eye care and dental care. In Hungary, they also get more benefits than the average Hungarian, including free school supplies for children, welfares, and free medicine. This is not coming from an xenophobic individual, but from the son of a hardworking Hungarian immigrant, who hates to see these Roma tarnishing the image of hardworking Hungarian immigrants. I fully support this screening, its a shame they couldn’t have started doing this 6 years ago. Canada does not have the obligation to let everyone in its borders, let alone abuse its system.

  10. Daniel, you are plain out lying! First of all, there have not been scores of Roma in the last 6-7 years. In 2010 and 2011 there were an abundance, since then it has died off due to Canada turning them around. When launching a refugee claim or any other claim for status here in Canada, they are NOT ALLOWED TO WORK, otherwise, they can be deported just for that. They must wait to recieve a work permit, which they must use, otherwise they WILL get sent home. Each person is given the same welfare as any other person in Canada on welfare. Do not lie and say they recieve more. They do NOT qualify for ANY sort of healthcare in Canada unlike Canadians on welfare, no eyecare or dental care either. What you are stating is FALSE! Just because YOUR immigrant family recieved it when they arrived, doesn’t mean the rules are the same as they were back then. You are a xenophobe Hungarian, poisoning OUR society with your ignorance and hatred toward Roma taught to you by your parents. Maybe you should do some research before making these types of ignorant comments. I have encountered many a “hardworking Hungarian immigrant” such as you and quite frankly it pisses me right off, what was good for you should not be available to others? They can access charities for help like anyone else, they deserve the opportunity to live in a society in which they are accepted, where they too have the same opportunity as your father. Hate to break it to you, but Canada is not as discriminatory as Europe, so you will NOT win with your hatred here. You may convince your friends, but I know what I am talking about when it comes to immigration and refugees in Canada.

    • Liz,

      Your comment was so hilariously misinformed that I hope you’re trolling. While it may be true that someone claiming refugee status needs a work permit to work in Canada, do you magically think that everyone is going to follow the system? Don’t be naive, many of them work for cash, under the table in order to gain income while also receiving welfare. The claim that you make that they do not receive healthcare is also misinformed, considering the government has a healthcare program for people claiming refugee status, which can be found here: http://refugee.cleo.on.ca/en/health-care-refugee-claimants

      (So much for knowing a lot about the subject)

      I also hate to burst your bubble, but my family did not receive any benefits when they immigrated to Canada, none, and have never used any benefits or social assistance since that time. They worked as soon as they got here, and in the meantime used money that they had saved up prior to coming here. I never mentioned using any government programs or assistance, so I don’t know where you came up with the conclusion that I did.

      I do not have a hatred toward Roma that was taught by my parents. Everything I wrote such as the healthcare and welfare payments were learned from conversations that I had with Hungarian Roma who were here. They would proudly tell me how much money they made while on welfare and working on the side. Many of them told me that the reason they come here is because the government pays a lot in terms of wellfare, making it well worth the trip. I don’t support this, that’s why I commented. Nobody has the right to abuse the system, and the majority of the Roma population has been abusing the system. In fact, so much so, that the government of Canada has erected billboards discouraging refugee claims in Canada, because they have recognized this abuse, source:

      http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/01/25/roma_refugees_canadian_billboards_in_hungary_warn_of_deportation.html

      Note how the article conveniently leaves out the part about how they abused welfare among other benefits, in order to cast a more sympathetic light onto those who filed an asylum claim.

      • First of all, I have sponsored refugees in Canada and the “Refugee protection act” changed the benefits afforded to refugees and immigrants in regards to healthcare, June 30th 2012, refugees were not eligible for healthcare in Canada. This has been challenged but the healthcare has still not been reinstated.
        http://www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca/the-issue.html
        You claim that refugees come here and work under the table. I am sure there may be some, those who can speak English and have connections, something most refugees do not have. So don’t be so presumptuous Daniel. I do not believe for one second what you claim about hearing directly from Hungarian Roma refugee claimants of coming here for benefits as I too have spoken to HUNDREDS of them and was directly involved. Never heard from any of them such things. So I think you are not being honest here. The sole reason that the billboards were put up was a direct result of Jason Kenney’s visit to Hungary to talk to government officials regarding the situation, it was them who told the Canadian government that the Roma were lying regarding their treatment in Hungary. This is what caused the listing of Hungary being a “safe country” of origin in the new “Immigration and Refugee protection Act. I think it is you that is highly misinformed. I don’t believe that you talked to refugees that came to rip Canada off, I think you are making that up. Also, I do not believe that your parents didn’t recieve any help when arriving here as immigrants. There are a lot of Hungarians who like to make this claim, but I also know that it is not true in most cases. Who is the troll?

  11. Could Mr/Ms. Marton publish the story with more details in Hungarian in KMH for further reference, please? This happened on Hungarian soil even if Canadians did it, allegedly.
    Are his wife and her daughter Roma? Any details about the sick boy and the soccer team? How many people, for what reason?
    The requirement of (unsafe, risky, costly, etc.) 3000 cash, instead of a recent bank statement, is shocking if true.
    The supporters of racial profiling should be excluded from any civilized debate.
    Not everybody is discriminatory in Europe, by far.

  12. Pingback: Canada Border Services responds to HFP: CBSA officers deployed at Budapest Airport

  13. Esther Sarah Evans says:

    b”H

    Regardless of the back and forth here – exchange of information of conflicting nature, the case described by Mr. Marton requires immediate investigation and immediate action.
    Whatever the qualifications, blanket solutions cannot apply here, and each has to be taken on individual merit or lack of it. The assertion that Hungary is a safe country does not apply. If it’s unsafe for Jews already, as it is, then it poses problems to everyone else who – as during the nazi era – was endangered by the attitudes and behaviour of those steeped in racial and cultural prejudice.

  14. In all my time working on the Roma issue I’ve rarely met a Hungarian who likes the Roma, gives them the benefit of the doubt and doesn’t want them out of Hungary. There are exceptions but few. Hungary has powerful racist undertones which has and will be directed to anyone not a national or born to Christian Hungarian parents. Therefore all this stuff that Daniel espousing is nonsense. He is like his father and grandfather — hateful of Roma. Why? Likely Insecurity of his own position in the world. It’s easy to hate others when you refuse to strengthen yourself.

    As a Jew I fear for my people in modern Hungary with the rise of Jobek and I am equally fearful for the Roma and other minority. Hungary must change. Good folk must speak loudly and be supported by others around the world. God bless the Roma people! With no homeland to go to they are exposed to the bitterness of angry old and now young men. Solution: the Roma need to find a homeland.

  15. If you guys seriously think that Roma are being discriminated against then y’all need a reality check and a plane ticket to Hungary. It’s easy to be a keyboard social justice warrior sitting in a chair at home.

  16. I am there at least once a year Daniel, so please do not tell me. They are mistreated even worse than when I lived there. In fact, they have been so marginalized and excluded from society, I don’t blame them for not trusting average Hungarians.

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