Canadian press: Visas for Czechs were necessary
Prague Daily Monitor
20 July 2009
Ottawa, July 17 (CTK) – Canadian papers have commented on Canada's reimposition of visa requirements on Czech citizens this week in reaction to a rising number of Czech immigrants, mainly Romanies, seeking asylum there.
It is unfortunate, but Canada has no other possibility but to reintroduce visas for Czechs, the Canadian daily National Post wrote in an editorial on Thursday.
“Even while groaning for decades under Soviet oppression, the Czechs remained among the most cultured of Europeans. The Czech Republic and its earlier incarnations have produced great composers (Dvorak and Smetana), great writers (Kafka and Kundera), hockey players (Jagr and Hasek) and tennis stars (Navratilova and Lendl), and more than their share of good pilsners, too. But what else was our Immigration department to do?” the commentator asks in the paper.
He recalls that since 2007 when visa requirements were lifted for Czechs, refugee claimants have begun flooding in from the Czech Republic.
According to the Canadian embassy in Prague, Czechs submitted 1720 refugee claims in Canada in the first half of the year only, which makes the Czech Republic the second top source country behind Mexico with 5500 claims.
“Since nearly 90 percent of their applications will ultimately be rejected, these claimants are a huge burden on both our refugee determination system and our social programs,” National Post says.
The paper recalls that on many flights from Prague to Canada this year, over half the passengers have made asylum claims upon landing.
It is simply better if “those whose refugee claims are likely to be turned down are never admitted to the country in the first place, which is where the new visa requirement comes in,” the paper points out.
“It would be sad if the Czech Republic decided to retaliate to our new visa rule by imposing one of its own on Canadian visitors. To the best of our knowledge, Canada is not a major source of bogus refugee applicants for the Prague government (or any government). But even if that happens, [Canadian Immigration Minister Jason] Kenney must not go back on the new visa rule,” National Post writes.
It adds that “one of the first duties of a government is to protect the nation and its security, and one of the best ways to do that is to ensure its borders are tight against fraudulent immigration applications.”
Canada that annually accepts nearly 300,000 immigrants need not feel guilty about refusing tens of thousands more who are trying to abuse its generosity, the paper concludes.
The editorial in today's issue of the Globe and Mail daily headlined “Futile Retaliation” comments on Czech President Vaclav Klaus's reaction to the Canadian visa requirements.
It writes that Klaus, a Eurosceptic and critic of the EU reform Lisbon treaty, has been using Canada's decision to reimpose visa requirements on Czechs as a chance to criticise Brussels.
“He (Klaus) would like to retaliate against Canada… There are no lineups at Prague's airport of Canadians seeking refugee status in the Czech Republic, but Mr. Klaus would like to retaliate anyway. Problem is he can't,” the paper writes.
Visa control is namely one of the sovereign powers that has been ceded to Brussels, it recalls.
“Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, is concerned that anti-EU sentiment is growing in the Czech Republic as a result, and so is prepared to damage relations with Canada as a balm to Mr. Klaus,” the paper adds.
“So 27 countries with close historical, cultural and military ties, are now considering imposing EU visas on Canadian citizens… The efforts of the Swedish EU presidency would be better expended ascertaining the true state of the Czech Romanies,” Globe and Mail concludes.
The imposition of visas is risky, the daily Toronto Star wrote on Thursday.
In the case of the Czech Republic, a member of the European Union, there is a risk of the whole EU 27 imposing visas on Canada.
Moreover, the measure might undermine the prepared agreement on free trade, Toronto Star says.
The paper also discusses possibilities to reform the Canadian asylum policy not to shut the door to those applicants who really need asylum.