Canada to require visas from Mexico, Czech Republic
Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, July 13, 2009
PARIS — Canada has announced it will impose visa requirements effective a minute after midnight Tuesday on the top two sources of refugee claimants — Mexico and the Czech Republic.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said many of the asylum requests are either rejected or abandoned, raising questions about the legitimacy of the claimants' allegations that they face persecution in their home countries.
The vast majority of the Czechs seeking asylum are from that country's Roma minority, which has faced a long history of racism and persecution according to various international rights organizations.
Mr. Kenney defended the decision that is expected to prompt criticism from human rights workers and the Mexican and Czech governments.
“In addition to creating significant delays and spiralling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.
“All too often, people who really need Canada's protection find themselves in a long line, waiting for months and sometimes years to have their claims heard. This is unacceptable.”
Mr. Kenney said he will permit a 48-hour grace period, ending at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, for travellers already in transit.
“The visa requirement I am announcing will give us a greater ability to manage the flow of people into Canada and verify bona fides,” said Mr. Kenney, who is attempting to reform Canada's backlogged refugee determination system.
“By taking this important step toward reducing the burden on our refugee system, we will be better equipped to process genuine refugee claims faster.”
The number of Mexican refugee claimants has almost tripled since 2005, rising from 3,400 to 9,400 in 2008, when Mexicans made up one-quarter of all asylum requests, the government said in a statement.
In the first half of 2009 there were more than 5,500 Mexican claims, compared with roughly 3,700 over the first six months of 2008.
The Immigration and Refugee Board reviewed 5,654 Mexican claims last year and accepted 606. “In 2009, the number of claims has increased, while the acceptance rate has decreased further still.”
The Conservative government lifted the visa requirement on Czech citizens in late 2007 despite warnings of a repeat of a similar decision in the mid-1990s, when there was a flood of Roma claimants before the visa rule was re-imposed.
Roma began arriving at the Toronto international airport almost immediately, with 840 claims filed in 2008 compared to five in 2006. Almost 3,000 claims were filed since the decision, more than half in the first four months of this year.
Refugees to Canada in Catch-22 situation: advocate
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Canada warns Czechs may again need visas
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