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Canada changing its asylum system, Czech Republic may have visas lifted

Ottawa, 4.7.2010 19:51, (ROMEA)

Canada is changing and partially tightening its asylum system. The Canadian Parliament passed asylum policy reform last week. According to the web page of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, the Governor-General has agreed to the reforms. Most of the changes will start to apply over the next year and a half. The new, stricter asylum legislation may somewhat open the door for the lifting of the Canadian visa requirement for citizens of the Czech Republic and other states.

Canada unilaterally reinstated visas for Czech citizens last July due to the rising number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic. Both the Czech Republic and the EU criticized the move. Under pressure from Brussels and Prague, the Canadians then also started working on changes to their asylum system. The system itself was considered to a significant extent one of the reasons that so many asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, mostly from the Roma community, headed overseas.

The Canadian asylum system was generally considered easy to abuse. People who made baseless asylum requests had the opportunity to stay on in Canada for years afterward as part of a protracted repatriation process. In mid-2009, Canadian politicians repeatedly acknowledged the system was under great strain and overloaded. This allegedly made it impossible to efficiently address requests filed by those who had truly been exposed to persecution in their homelands. Canadian leaders also said it would not be possible to lift the visas without changes to the asylum system.

The newly reformed legislation makes it possible for the authorities to quickly process requests which evidently are made by claimants who truly need asylum and are not abusing the system. Those whose requests are denied will have to leave Canadian territory quickly, evidently within a few months.

"Canada has one of the most generous refugee systems in the world. These reforms will lead to more rapid protection of victims of torture and persecution and to the more rapid expulsion of those denied asylum, including those who are doing their best to abuse Canada’s generosity,” said Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Failed asylum seekers allegedly will still be able to appeal their rejections. However, their requests will be given priority and will be decided on much more quickly. Requests coming from citizens of particular countries will be decided on more quickly as well.

According to the minister, this new tool will make it easier to address “the waves of false asylum claims from safe, democratic countries.” Over the next five years, the measures will allegedly save the Canadians up to two billion dollars.

The money saved by the reformed system will supposedly go towards genuine refugees who truly need help in Canada. Refugees from Iraq, dissidents from Iran, or people persecuted in their homelands because of their sexual orientation will allegedly receive more help.

Of the EU Member States, Canada has instituted visas for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens as well and is allegedly considering instituting them for Hungarian citizens. Ottawa has also introduced visas for non-European states, Mexico among them.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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