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Czech-Canadian visa war is the worst of bad solutions
27-07-2009  Lída Rakušanová

A little less than two years passed and it is here again: visa obligation for travellers to Canada.

This time it was announced by phone and only six hours ahead. The response was really a harsh one. What else than the recall of the Czech ambassador from Ottawa and reciprocal visa requirement for Canadian diplomats can follow? The introduction of visas for all Canadian citizens, indeed. But being part of Schengen space CR as a member of EU can hardly do that.

So at first it is necessary to refer to solidarity clause in Brussels, request the introduction of visas for Canadians by all EU member countries. Because such a thing is probably doomed to fail, the next step would be to appeal to the European court. However, even if the matter was settled down for the benefit of Czech Republic, how would Prague then cope with such a decision?

Would Prague introduce visas for Canadians by herself and in this way leave Schengen? Would it reopen check-boxes and customs at borders and make travelling unpleasant for its citizens only because of those few Canadians who come to visit? We are really trapped there and it is a cold comfort that we are not alone. Edvard Outrata, the former head of Canadian and after 1989 Czech statistic office, also a senator until a short time ago, is convinced that both sides are to be blamed.

Edvard Outrata The fault on Canadian side is being unable to establish such a system that would make it clear to Czech Romas that it is not advantageous for them at all to burn their boats at home and leave thinking that at the worst in ten or twelve month´s time they will be sent back as failed asylum seekers.

Some time ago Britain and Finland found themselves in a similar situation as Canada. However, after both the countries had established conditions which made it disadvantageous for the asylum seekers to wait months for the decision about the asylum, either for financial or social reasons, the mass of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic got reduced.

At present Canada is the last country that hasn’t made any restrictions concerning the process of asylum-granting. However, it has special reasons: granting asylum is not the responsibility of government authorities but of an independent statutory undertaker.

Therefore Canadian politics cannot affect its activities, it can only, like now, try putting out fire, not eliminate what has caused it. So Czech politicians´ appeals to their Canadian colleagues are quite pointless. But all this Canadian approach has specific reasons: according to ex-senator Outrata Canadians are very tolerant because they are reminiscent of the fact that it has always been the refugees and immigrants who have given the country its today’s face.

It remains to ponder on why it is mainly the Czech Republic that so many Romas leave for Canada. In neighbouring Slovakia perhaps a greater number of them suffer from unemployment and in Hungary extremists not only put Roma´s homes on fire but also shoot at them when they are trying to escape. Is racism really that worse here than at our Central European neighbours´? Or are our Romas more brittle than others?

Edvard Outrata suggests an explanation: It seems, he says, that, unlike in Slovakia and Hungary where Romas still live in their communities, a lot of Romas living in our country are educated and integrable. Those are who suffer the most here. It is because they feel that society will always want to reject them. And if not them than their children.

There will always appear a primitive who will start calling them “black jaws” in the street, not only with impunity but also with silent approval of passers-by. This really cannot happen in Canada, and elsewhere too. People are remarkably more welcoming there. Who wants to make a heavy line behind them and start a normal life with normal perspectives will get a chance there. We may only add that all Kocab’s projects will probably have just a little effect in this respect. That is to say, it is not a matter of money. It is a matter of overall atmosphere in our society. That is going to be a long-distance race indeed.

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