Canada To Re-Instate Visa Requirement For Czechs

Canada to reinstate visa requirement for Czechs

By Peter O'Neil
Europe Correspondent
Canwest News Service
July 2, 2009
Comments (7)

The Canadian government is finally following through on its threat to crack down on Roma migrants from the Czech Republic who have been arriving in Canada by the hundreds each month claiming refugee status, the Czech media is reporting.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney informed his Czech counterparts earlier this week that Ottawa, which lifted visa requirements for Czech visitors to Canada in late 2007, will re-impose that restriction on Tuesday, according to the People's News, the oldest Czech daily newspaper.

An activist in the Czech Republic who advocates for Roma rights said Canada will be making a mistake if it goes ahead with the re-imposition of the visa requirement.

“Business people will be encumbered, legitimate asylum seekers will be encumbered, and discrimination (in the Czech Republic) will continue. It's not a pro-active approach,” Gwendolyn Albert, director of the Women's Initiatives Network, told Canwest News Service in a statement.

A spokesman for Kenney would neither confirm nor deny a pending Ottawa decision to bring back the visa requirement.

“I will not comment on confidential state-to-state discussions between Canada and the Czech Republic,” Alykhan Velshi, Kenney's director of communications and parliamentary affairs, said in an e-mail to Canwest News on Thursday.

Velshi confirmed that Kenney met in Prague with senior members of the Czech government, including Prime Minister Jan Fischer.

“The increase in asylum claims from the Czech Republic hardly an island of persecution in Europe is a real concern and Canada is monitoring the situation closely,” Kenney said.

“Since 2007, there has been no visa requirement for Czech nationals. However, visa-exempt countries are aware that if they do not satisfy the conditions of Canada's exemption, the requirement for a visa may be re-imposed.”

He noted that Jean Chretien's Liberal government lifted and then re-imposed a visa requirement for Czech visitors in the mid-1990s after a similar flood of refugee claimants from the Roma minority, which is subjected to widespread discrimination in Czech society.

Velshi made clear the government's concern that the media reports could spark an even larger flood of asylum seekers.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility for me to comment on whether or not Canada plans to impose a visa, because that kind of speculation could result in a run on the border.”

A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry refused to comment.

There were 78 refugee claims from the Czech Republic in 2007, all at the end of the year after the visa decision took effect, compared to none for all of 2006.

The total soared to 861 in 2008, making this liberal democracy and member of the European Union the seventh-largest source of refugees in Canada ahead of war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan and Somalia.

In the first three months of this year, the number of claimants from the Czech Republic jumped to fourth place (653). Mexico was first, at 3,648, with impoverished Haiti (688) and Colombia (656) just ahead of the Czech Republic.

Many of the Roma claimants settle in and around Toronto, with Hamilton being a favourite destination.

There are four direct Prague-Toronto flights a week, with asylum-seekers who get access to welfare and social housing after arrival sometimes making up anywhere from 20 to 35 per cent of the passengers.

There were as many as 68 claimants on the May 26 flight, and two days later there were 59, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The Immigration and Refugee Board has since 2007 accepted 118 Czech asylum applications claiming “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular political group.”


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Your Comments


July 09, 2009 – 6:32 PM
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If Canada reimposes the visa requirement, it may soon find itself under a visa obligation with respect to the whole EU (under the EU solidarity clause which states that if any country imposes visa requirements against an EU member state, the whole EU has to introduce visa requirements against that country). That means goodbye to easy European vacations…


July 05, 2009 – 5:42 AM
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I am not either the Czech or Canadian citizen (one of the EU countries that enjoyes visa free travel to Canada though). I do believe that Canada has got every right to reimpose the visas to whatever nation they like – including the Czech Republic, should they consider that these countries pose threat to their own stability. I also believe that Czech Republic does have a right to call for same measures against Canadian citizen visiting any of the EU (or at least Schengen) country, of which the Czech Republic is a part of. It is fair to remember that the stick has got two ends, so perhaps instead of using it, it is just easier to sit and discuss a solution that would saitisfy both Canada and Czech Republic – for benefit of all?


July 03, 2009 – 11:37 AM
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Canada's visa reinstatement is definitely an overreaction. I believe that if the visa regime is reimposed, the EU should retaliate under the solidarity clause. And anyway, the Czech Republic is a free democracy with no political persecution whatsoever, so instead of targeting a whole country, Canada should review its overly liberal asylum policy (social housing at the taxpayers' expense) so that fraudulent asylum seekers could be summarily turned back (even from the airport if necessary). As an alternative, they could introduce an electronic prescreening system like ESTA in the US.

Lubos Motl

July 02, 2009 – 5:04 PM
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It is so typical. Do the white Canadians like the Roma people and their behavior which is so manifestly different from the whites' (and probably determined either genetically or by millenia of a different lifestyle – and which of the two is the reason is pretty much inconsequential)? Obviously they don't – otherwise they wouldn't be blocking their free migration to Canada by adding racial profiling at the airport and/or the visas for all the Czechs. The journalist above wrote lots of disgraceful lies, e.g. about the “discrimination of the Roma people in Czechia”, showing that hypocrisy has become a standard in Canada. If Canada wants to prevent the Roma people from moving there, they should make the policy targeted. Otherwise, it's a hostile act against the whole Czech Republic and the Czech Republic is mature enough so that it should respond by analogous measures, imposing the visas on the Canadians who tolerate such hostile acts by their government. We will probably start with the Canadian diplomatic Big Cheeses. At any rate, the Canadians should be deeply ashamed.


July 02, 2009 – 1:56 PM
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I applaud adding the visa requirments,,I have no problem with people coming over to Canada and making it there home,,however I insist it be done through the proper channels, fair is fair


July 02, 2009 – 12:58 PM
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While I understand the reasons behind this decision I still think it is not quite fair. If the Canadian government wants to limit the number of asylum seekers it should introduce visas for Mexican citizens because Mexico, not Czech Republic is the major supplier of refugee claimants.


July 02, 2009 – 11:44 AM
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What exactly is meant by ” Business people will be encumbered, legitimate asylum seekers will be encumbered, and discrimination will continue. It's not a pro-active approach ” .Is Canada responsibile for the World's refugee problem.We are already being flooded with refugees who need to be looked after at the Tax Payer's expense.How are countries with Visa requirements surviving ? Don' t they have business people and Asylum seekers.Next on the line should be Mexico.they are not too far off when it comes to seeking refugee status…