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No visas for now, says Canadian minister in Prague
18-07-2008  Ruth Fraňková

Diane Finley, photo: CTK 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.

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