Skip to main content

Canada Canada reimposing visa controls to stop Roma asylum-seekers, Czech media say

Canada will reimpose visa requirements on citizens of the Czech Republic because of dramatically increased numbers of Roma asylum-seekers, Czech media are reporting after this week's visit to Prague by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The national daily Lidové Noviny (People's News) said Mr. Kenney told the Czech government that the restriction would be imposed next Tuesday on the eastern European country.

Alykhan Velshi, Mr. Kenney's spokesman, would not comment on the accounts or on what the minister discussed with his Czech counterparts. But he did say that speculative media reports could spark a run on the border.

Story continues below advertisement

In 1997, the Canadian government imposed visa controls on the Czech Republic after large numbers of Roma - who historically have faced discrimination in the country and say they face constant attacks from skinhead and neo-Nazi groups - arrived in Canada and claimed refugee status.

The restriction remained in place for 10 years, during which time there were virtually no refugee applications. But since it was removed at the end of 2007, about 2,000 Roma have arrived - 1,000 of them in the first four months of 2009, making them the second-largest refugee applicant group after Mexicans.

Mr. Kenney has indicated he is concerned about the sharp increase in asylum claims. The Czech Republic, he said, is "hardly an island of persecution in Europe."

The Immigration and Refugee Board sent a fact-finding team to the Czech Republic in March to investigate the treatment of Roma. Its report, posted on the IRB's website, is inconclusive - it quotes state agencies saying the Roma are protected against discrimination and non-government organizations saying they are not.

Toronto immigration lawyer Max Berger, who is acting for about 400 Roma applicants, said that the IRB has made a decision in just under 100 cases and accepted 85 per cent, an extraordinarily high rate. The general acceptance rate is about 40 per cent.

"So is Canada justified [in reimposing visa restrictions] It's effectively shutting the door on genuine refugee claims," Mr. Berger said.

He also said that the minister is undermining his own board by publicly declaring that the Czech Republic is not "an island of persecution" and implying that the refugee claims are not legitimate. "It's an entirely inappropriate thing for him to say," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

He said it would be more appropriate if pressure were applied on the Czech government to deal with persecution of the Roma.

The concern about large numbers of applicants is "overstated panic," he said. "The IRB has had bigger numbers in the past. In the early '90s, there were 40,000 to 45,000 claimants annually, now there are 30,000."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter