Most research initiatives on Roma migration focus on Roma migrating from non-EU to EU or EU to EU countries. This project aims to look at another sub-component of this process, the transatlantic (Canadian) return migration. The migration and asylum-seeking of Roma from Central Eastern Europe started in the 1990s and continues till today. Several thousands of Roma have gone to Canada in the last fifteen years and it is estimated that only about one fifth of them have stayed. The shifting immigration and refugee policies of the Canadian state, the bilateral diplomatic relations of Canada and the CEE countries, the changing discriminatory and racist climate of the home countries all contributed to the out-migration and the return of the Roma to their home countries.
This pilot research project will focus on one single aspect of the phenomenon, on cases of return in three countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Fieldwork will involve in-depth interviews with one extended family with a migration history to and from Canada. The reason these three locations were chosen is that these are the three most important countries of Roma out-migration/asylum-seeking in the 1990s and the 2000s. Most Roma arrived from the Czech Republic and Hungary and less from Slovakia. (Between 1997 and 2005, approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Roma left Eastern Europe. The first to file asylum claims were Slovakian and Czech Roma, followed by Polish, Bulgarian, and Romanian Roma. They applied in the European Union (particularly the UK), Switzerland, Norway, and Canada. (ERRC) The number of asylum claims from Hungarian citizens went up to 2,300 in 2010 and to 4,450 in 2011 and the acceptance rate was around 11%. Given the visa dispute of Canada and the Czech Republic, the number of claims is lower now from Czech citizens.)
The fieldwork will shed light both on the push factors and the returnees’ - the fourth/fifth - reintegration experiences who did not (manage to) stay. The main question is whether the returnees suffer from ‘double disadvantage’ upon their return (spending all their fortune on the trip, becoming stigmatized, encountering enhanced difficulties while reintegrating in the labor market, education system, etc.) or on the contrary, coming back, either voluntarily or forced, they have accumulated different kinds of capitals that enables them to manage a better life back in their home country.
The research will result in three case studies based on the in-depth interviews with extended families. Fieldwork will be conducted by research assistants, preferably CEU PhD students. Case studies will draw on the conceptualization of return migration literature and start to problematize the concept that could be further developed in a larger scale project. Return migration could be analyzed in a neoclassical economics (failed migration), a new economics of labor (calculated strategy), a structuralist (neither a success not a failure given the structural context at home), a transnationalist (no permanent return) or a cross-border social network theory (secured return) framework. The analysis of single cases will give some insight as to how migration and return strategies are conceived and performed and help to assess which of the above frameworks could be the most adequate for a larger scale analysis of the return migration of Roma.