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Canada: Czech visas to stay June 2012, "we are monitoring the situation"

Prague, 7.10.2011 10:53, (ROMEA)

Canada's revised asylum system, which would once more permit Czech citizens to travel to Canada without visas, will not be launched until June of next year. News server Aktuálně.cz reported this morning that the Canadian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Valerie Raymond, has confirmed that information, adding that the Embassy will continue to monitor events in the Šluknov foothills. Ottawa reinstated visas for Czech citizens in June 2009 because of the increased immigration rate of Romani people from the Czech Republic complaining of racial discrimination and seeking asylum in Canada.

"Even though the Canadian Government previously announced the new asylum system would be implemented at the end of this year, the system is now being designed for launch in June 2012," Raymond told Aktuálně.cz. "The Embassy of Canada is also monitoring the situation in Šluknov district," she said. However, when asked whether the unrest in the north of Bohemia might influence the lifting of the visa obligation, she avoided giving a direct answer. "Canada's visa policy is based on evaluating individual states on the basis of the criteria for instituting or lifting visas, such as a state's border control regime, migration patterns, security questions, socioeconomic profile and travel document issues," she said.

Czech Ambassador to Canada Karel Tebrakovský confirmed to news server Aktuálně.cz that the introduction of the new asylum system has been postponed. "I do not believe visas will be lifted by the end of this year. The Canadian side needs more time," he said.

Tensions in the Šluknov foothills have dominated the region since August. Long-term residents have repeatedly protested against rising crime, which they blame on Romani members of their communities who have recently moved there. Two attacks reportedly perpetrated by members of the Romani minority on local non-Romani residents sparked the protests, which have been ongoing for six weeks.

Canadian immigration experts researched the degree to which Romani people are integrated into the Czech Republic at the start of this year. In addition to meeting with bureaucrats, the experts met with representatives of the nonprofit sector who work with Romani people, such as Romani activist Karel Holomek, extremism expert Klára Kalibová, and representatives of the humanitarian organization People in Need. However, their visit has not yet yielded any concrete results. "The Canadian Government is still working on the report. It has not yet been published," Tebrakovský told news server Aktuálně.cz.

The Czech Republic has demanded assistance from the EU in the matter of lifting the visas. However, Brussels has chosen to give verbal support only, rather than placing any significant pressure on Ottawa.

František Bikár, ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, brf, Aktuálně.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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