No visas for now, says Canadian minister in Prague|
Czechs travelling to Canada can continue to do so without a visa. During a
visit in Prague on Thursday, the Canadian Minister for Citizenship and
Immigration Diane Finley said that for the time being her country was not
planning to reintroduce visa restrictions for Czechs. She added, however,
that the Czech Republic and Canada must work together in an attempt to lower
the number of Czechs seeking asylum in Canada.
Canada first lifted visa requirements for Czech
citizens shortly after the fall of communism, but reintroduced them in 1997
in reaction to a flood of asylum seekers, mainly Romanies, on the grounds
that Czechs were abusing the Canadian welfare system. The visa requirement
was lifted once again in November last year. According to the figures
released by the Canadian Embassy in Prague, altogether 449 Czechs have
applied for asylum in Canada since the visa restrictions were lifted. The
Canadian press has recently suggested that if the number of Czech asylum
requests reaches 580, Ottawa will consider reintroducing visas. Minister
Finley has dismissed these claims, saying that there are no clear limits set
by the immigration authorities:
“The number of asylum applicants is only one of approximately 14 different
categories of criteria that we use in determining objectively whether a
country deserves a visa waiver or not. There are no hard and fast numbers.
We look at every each of those criteria in the context of the other ones
and in context of changing circumstances both within the host country and
within Canada. Each case is evaluated on its individual and unique merits.
We also take into account the conditions in the applicants’ home country
and if they were to be returned, what sort of treatment they would face. ”
According to the Canadian immigration minister, the number of asylum
seekers in Canada far exceeds the number of those who are actually granted
asylum. While nearly 1,000 Czech emigrants received asylum in Canada in the
late 1990s, none of those who have applied since last December met the
criteria set by the Canadian authorities.