They claim to be fleeing a life of persecution and begging for a future in Canada.
CityNews is investigating a rising trend of women panhandling in the GTA while claiming to be refugees from Eastern Europe.
Many of the women we spoke to identified as Romanian – specifically of Romani or Roma descent. The nomadic group has a history of enslavement and persecution in Europe, reaching as far back as the 13th century. Their ethnic roots stem from India or Pakistan.
In a rare revealing interview, one panhandler named Adelina told us she’s only 21 and seeking asylum in Canada after leaving her 3-year-old daughter back in Craiova, Romania. She claims her family is discriminated against because their heritage and are prohibited from going to school or dining at local restaurants.
Other women offered us a similar story line: telling us they’ve been in Canada for only 3 months, have one or more children and are hoping to seek refuge here in Canada.
Toronto Police said they have not received any information to suggest there’s a larger cash grab scheme at hand.
We asked Adelina ourselves if she was begging as a part of a larger group, and she said no.
A translator who is also a Roma settlement worker, told us not all applicants choose to beg once they arrive in Canada, despite many Romas panhandling for a living in Europe.
“I’ve had Roma who are very organized and very efficient. They know what they have to do to get their papers,” Gyongyver Angi of Culture Link said.
On Wednesday, CityNews will bring you the story of a Roma family who’s not panhandling – but is facing deportation after attempting to have their immigration papers accepted for the past two years. We’ll hear their claims of persecution and violence and one 15-year-old’s experience attending a segregated school in Hungary.