Canadian ambassador to "abusers" of asylum from Czech Republic: "Don't do it"
Citizens of the Czech Republic can travel to Canada without visas as of 14 November. Ambassador Otto Jelinek has confirmed that the visa obligation imposed in July 2009 has been lifted.
Ambassador Jelinek claimed he would have liked to have ended the visas sooner but said necessary changes to the entire Canadian asylum system had to be made first. Canada required visas for Czech citizens because a high number of them were seeking asylum in the country.
An official Canadian government document (in Czech only) explaining the new asylum system is available at http://www.romea.cz/dokumenty/azylovy-system-kanada-2013.pdf
"I know it's good for Canada and I know it's also good for the Czech Republic," Jelinek, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, told reporters in Czech as he tore up one of the no longer needed visa applications as a demonstration of today's measure. Czech citizens may now stay in Canada without a visa for up to six months.
The measure covers all kinds of passports, including diplomatic and military service ones. "I also have news for those who want to abuse our asylum system now: Don't do it, don't do it, because our asylum system has changed. People who file unsubstantiated asylum applications will be deported from Canada much more quickly, they will not be able to request permission to work there, and they will receive lower welfare support while in Canada, including reduced health care coverage," Jelinek warned journalists, switching between Czech and English in his remarks.
Canadian PM Stephen Harper confirmed a month ago in Brussels that the visa obligation for Czech citizens would end soon. He said officials from Ottawa had repeatedly discussed the issue with top Czech politicians and that the free movement of persons between Canada and the European Union was in Canada's interest.
The Canadian Embassy in Prague briefly reported prior to Harper's statement that the government in Ottawa had been working for some time on abolishing the visas. Extensive changes to the Canadian asylum system made that possible.
The Embassy said in October that the changes will take effect as of 15 December, aiming to provide more rapid protection to those who need it, to assure the more rapid departure of those found not to need protection, and to deter abuse of the Canadian asylum system. "Thank God, finally. We worked on that a long time and it has finally happened," former Czech Foreign Minster Schwarzenberg told journalists in the Czech lower house. "It was unsustainable."
Since reinstating the visas, Canada has issued more than 30 000 of them to Czech citizens and refused to issue 500. Czech diplomats have repeatedly protested against them.
Prague has long connected lifting the visa obligation to the issue of the Czech Government's consent to approval of economic and trade agreements between Canada and the EU. The visas were reinstated by Canada in July 2009 due to an influx of Czech citizens seeking asylum overseas.
The main asylum-seekers were Romani people complaining of persecution and racism. According to some sources, however, asylum-seekers from the Czech Republic were abusing Canada's asylum system and their emigration involved an economic subtext; Canada said the visas were preventing mass immigration from the Czech Republic.
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