I was surprised to learn that the largest source country for asylum seekers in Canada is Hungary. Embassy Magazine reports that 2,297 Hungarians–mostly Roma–filed for asylum in Canada in 2010. During the first nine months of 2011, figures show that 2,545 Hungarians applied for asylum in Canada, 1,000 more than the next highest source country, China. Presumably most of these asylum seekers were also Roma (Roma are pejoratively known as Gypsies).
There’s a different story in the United States. According to the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, only a nominal number of people from Hungary sought asylum in the U.S. Indeed, the Yearbook does not even list Hungary as a source country, and in FY 2010, only 730 people from all of Europe applied for asylum here.
So why the difference between us and (as Herman Cain would call it) Cana-an-an-anada?
My first thought was that the difference must be related to visa requirements, but this appears not to be the case. Embassy Magazine reports that, “Canada lifted visa requirements for Hungarian nationals in 2008,” but the same is true for the U.S. As of November 2008, Hungarians are eligible to enter the United States on the Visa Waiver Program.
Maybe Bela Lugosi is scaring away his fellow Hungarians.
Another explanation may be that Canada already has a sizable Hungarian population, including many people who fled Hungary after the 1956 Revolution. Immigrants tend to go where they feel more comfortable, in terms of culture, language, etc., and so the new immigrants might be joining their countrymen in Canada. But it turns out that the U.S. has more Hungarians than Canada (including Drew Barrymore and–my personal favorite–Bela Lugosi) .
A final reason might be that it is easier to win asylum in Canada than in the U.S. But I don’t think that is the case either. According to Embassy Magazine, Canada “accepted less than 10 per cent of the Hungarian refugee claims since 2009.”
In the end, it is a mystery to me why Canada is receiving so many more Hungarian asylum seekers than the U.S. What seems pretty clear, though, is that the situation for Roma people in Hungary is dangerous. Many Roma have been murdered and right wing extremism is on the rise. The main reason for the low asylum grant rate is not that Roma people are safe in Hungary. Rather, the Canadian government believes the Roma can resettle in other EU countries where they can live safely (whether the Roma agree with this is a separate question).
There is talk in Canada of making it more difficult for Hungarians to obtain visas. Even if visas are not restricted, if the grant rate remains low, the flow of Hungarians may slow down. But if the situation for the Roma in Hungary is as bad as it seems, a 10% chance of gaining a better life in Canada might be enough to keep people coming.
And yes, I know Herman Cain jokes are so last month, but I thought that was a good one.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.