Visas To Be Revisited

Visas to be revisited
Czech Republic's Roma community have other options besides filing refugee claims in Canada

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 07, 2009 07:34AM EDT

Canada should, as is rumoured, move to reimpose visa requirements on the Czech Republic to stop a rash of refugee claims from that country's Roma. The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union. Consequently, Czech citizens Roma included enjoy some of the best human-rights protections in the world. There are no impediments to travel to other EU states. Escape to Canada is not required, and such claims represent an abuse of Canada's refugee system, straining resources that should be reserved for legitimate refugees.

There is no doubt discrimination exists against the Roma within the Czech Republic. However, the Czech constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of national, racial or ethnic background, and the country is in compliance with EU human-rights laws. A report by Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board recently described instances where government agencies were, in fact, trying to integrate members of the Roma community.

The report did relate statements from observers that the Roma believe local police retain discriminatory or disrespectful views and, as a result, don't take their complaints seriously. But this is an issue that the Czech Republic needs to address, and not one that requires asylum in Canada. As Immigration Minister Jason Kenney correctly puts it, there is no policy of state-sponsored persecution against Czech Roma.

Czech media reports suggest Canada has given notice that this country intends to reimpose visa requirements on Czechs who travel to Canada.

Such a move is necessary, although it must pain Mr. Kenney, who successfully argued previously that visa requirements be lifted from several Eastern European states, including the Czech Republic.

Visas are a blunt instrument to be used against a friendly country, especially when the real problem lies with Canada's refugee system, which is vulnerable to abuse.

A similar situation exists with Mexico, which is now the leading source country for refugee claims in Canada. Reform is called for. But until then, the federal government ought to adopt visa requirements for these two countries, to protect the integrity of its refugee system and focus on those who really need Canada's help.


Latest Comments

Doug H.

7/8/2009 1:41:50 AM
Why would you acceopt refugee claims from any country that you have deemed responsible? If you beleive that a country has fair and just human rights process, then if anybody from that country apples for refugee status, put them on a plane and send them home. How holy do you think our country is?

chad wyatt

7/8/2009 1:26:42 AM
I sympathise greatly with my friends in Canada who regard this issue with consternation: why should Canada solve the problems that the Czech Republic has refused to address, now twenty years following the Velvet Revolution? I should propose only that, contrary to some perception, those Czechs who are Roma coming your way are not after comfort, they are fleeing ultra right-wing actors who appear suddenly during the day, or at night, attack with firebombs and weapons, hospitalise their victims. Often, assailants are let go by legal authorities with only a slap on the wrist. But result of such attack is often years in recovery, physical and psychological scars that will endure for a lifetime.

Surely there is room for the handful of refugees seeking asylum, their number is barely noticeable to anyone looking. Yet, in honouring its truly admirable tradition of welcome, Canada can take the high road in this. Many who would seek citizenship among you are individuals of great talent, ready to contribute to society. I know this, for some of them are friends of mine.

I speak as citizen of the US, a country that has lost its way after 9-11, the welcome once our tradition has been withdrawn from those truly in search of new home with willingness to adopt a fresh life. Many of those who would become your fellow-citizens are people who already have succeeded on terms society understands as valid. And, they have few other options, Europe is unwelcoming, as is my own country.

Chad Evans Wyatt


7/6/2009 5:10:55 PM
Roma immigration to Canada is purely economy driven. There are countries in Europe where Romas have much harder life than in the Czech Republic – Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, to name a few. Romas from thee countries travel to Italy, Spain or even Ireland. They are free to do that. Persecution of the Roma is fictitious to a large degree. In fat, the Czechs fear Roma, their crime rate is very high, it is very hard to find a male Roma who has not been to jail.
The Czech Roma used to immigrate to UK until UK declared the Czech Republic to be a safe country. If Canada imposes visas on Czechs, the Roma will fly to New York – Czech Republic has visa waiver for US, take a bus to Canadian border and apply for asylum. If Canada imposes the visas for Czechs, it will not end the influx of Roma to Canada


7/6/2009 3:00:18 PM
“Plus if the all Czechs are imposed a Canadian visa because of the Romas, expect a backlash againts them in the Czech Republic as a result.”

Are there enough Czechs interested in traveling to canada that it would make a splash?

John Birch

7/6/2009 2:04:14 PM
I understand the concern people have with the Roma, but to me the real problem with this country are the Europeans that were born here and refuse to go back home to England, France or wherever their ancestors came from.

In fact, it looks downright stupid for a bunch of European immigrants to complain about another bunch of european immigrants.