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Czech asylum seekers allegedly appear in Canada

Ottawa, 1.3.2008 10:31, (ROMEA/CTK)

Czech citizens asking for asylum in Canada and abusing its social system have again appeared in Canada following the recent lifting of Canadian visas for Czechs, according to trustworthy information CTK has obtained.

If the number of Czech asylum seekers increases considerably and exceeds the set limit there is a threat that Canada would reimpose visa requirements for Czechs.

However, Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova told CTK today that according to ministry's information, Canada does not view the current situation as alarming and is not considering reintroducing visas for Czechs.

Canada lifted visas for Czech citizens last November. According to CTK's information, the first Czech asylum seekers appeared at an airport in Canada on the next day after the visas were lifted.

Canada imposed visa requirements for Czechs in 1997 due to an influx of Czech asylum seekers, mostly Romanies.

Ottawa then said that visas for Czechs would only be lifted if the situation from 1997 did not repeat. Although it arrived at the conclusion that the Czech Republic presently meets the required criteria it can re-consider its decision, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said last year.

The Czech Foreign Ministry then announced that the number of Czech asylum seekers a year should not exceed two percent of all asylum applications received by Canadian authorities. Another condition is that the number of Czechs who violate Canadian regulations while on visit to this country should not exceed three percent. This means that Czech tourists should not stay in Canada longer than 90 days and should not seek employment during their stay.

According to available information, Canada is preparing regular statistics of asylum seekers. If the statistics is unfavourable for the Czech Republic a treat of Canada reintroducing visa requirements for Czechs could come at a time when the USA is prepared to lift visas for Czechs.

However, Opletalova told CTK today that although the ministry received reports from Canada confirming that the number of Czechs asking for asylum had increased Canada considers the trend temporary and not alarming.

According to the ministry's information, there is no threat of Ottawa to re-impose visas.

From 1996 to 2000, 1677 Czech citizens asked for asylum in Canada and asylum had been granted to 962 of them. The largest number of applications was submitted in 1997 when 1221 Czechs asked for asylum in Canada. However, the number was only 53 in 2001, according to the official Canadian statistics.

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