Prague Hopes That Canada Will Lift Visas For Czechs Soon

Prague hopes that Canada will lift visas for Czechs soon
published: 12.07.2010, 11:15
updated: 12.07.2010 11:19:18

Prague – Czech diplomacy hopes that Canada will lift visas for Czech citizens before its reformed asylum system is in full operation.

The Canadian authorities say the asylum rules in the country will change in 18 to 24 months.

The Canadian asylum system was generally considered too soft enabling applicants to easily abuse it. This is also why some Czech citizens, primarily Romanies, sought asylum in Canada, while their applications would be swept from the table in other countries.

In reaction to a rising number of Czech immigrants who were seeking asylum, Canada reimposed visa requirements on Czech citizens on July 14, 2009

Since then Canada has issued over 6200 visas to Czech tourists.

Only 1.5 percent of (Czech) asylum applications have been rejected and 234 have been withdrawn, the Canadian Embassy in Prague told CTK.

The Czech government criticised the reimposition of visas and asked the European Union to exert pressure on Canada in this respect.

“A fundamental result of our latest bilateral talks with Canada is the Canadian statement that the decision on the revision of visa duty for the Czech Republic need not wait for a full implementation of the (asylum policy) reform,” the Foreign Ministry told CTK.

“However, we will yet negotiate about all these issues with Canada and it is up to Canada to make such a decision. The Czech Republic is prepared to create suitable conditions for it,” the ministry added.

The number of Czech asylum applicants in Canada, mainly Romanies, has considerably decreased since the visa introduction. In spite of it 74 Czech citizens sought asylum in Canada between August, 2009 and June, 2010.

Last year, the Canadian authorities closed 900 Czech asylum applications. In 734 cases, the applicants withdrew or did not reopen them. A total of 90 applications were approved as substantiated and 76 were rejected.

The Canadian parliament has passed a legislation to change the countrys benignant asylum system. Prague, which has for long pointed to the necessity of such a change, has welcomed the step.

“The law confirms our argument that the primary reasons for immigration was the fact that the Canadian system could be easily abused, and it tries to remove this shortcoming,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said.

Problems with Canadian visas have lasted for years.

Canada once reintroduced visas for Czech citizens in 1997 after lifting them for a short period in 1996, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, primarily Romanies. Canada eventually lifted visa requirements for Czechs in November 2007.

However, since it became a target country for a number of Czech Romanies who were claiming refugee status there, Canada decided to reimpose visas last year.

Czech Romanies said they sought asylum overseas because they are discriminated against in the Czech Republic. However, some experts said they rather sought a better economic life in Canada.

Information emerged that the immigration of Romanies was organised by some mediators as a profitable business and that the refugee status claimants abused the Canadian welfare system.