Number of Czech Romany asylum seekers in Canada increases
Canada has registered an increase in the number of Czech Romanies applying for asylum since Ottawa lifted the visa requirements for Czechs five months ago, the Canadian daily Toronto Star writes today.
Canada abolished the visa duty for Czechs as of November 1, 2007. The number of asylum applications by Czech citizens, mostly Romanies, immediately increased to 83 as of end-December, compared to no case in the first ten months of 2007.
Another 45 applications have been submitted this year so far, Toronto Star writes.
This development raises apprehensions that the situation of 1996 when some 4,000 Czech Romanies arrived in Canada after it lifted travel restrictions for Czechs could repeat, the paper writes.
Most of the Czech Romanies then gained the refugee status, it adds.
It says that this time the Canadian government has made it unofficially clear that it would re-impose the visa duty on Czechs if the number of Czech refugees crossed the level of 580, about 2 percent of all expected applications for asylum this year.
Toronto Star says a steep increase in the number of asylum seekers can be expected now that Canada has lifted visa requirements for Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Lithuania.
Except for the last mentioned state, all have strong Romany minorities who are in eastern Europe exposed to discrimination and social isolation, the daily says.
The EU has urged Canada to lift the entry barriers mainly concerning people from the EU's east European countries.
Canada's immigration office says the current status quo between the Czech Republic and Canada is based only on diplomatic assurances.
No kind of 2 percent sanction exists, but it is important to realise that Canada assesses its visa agenda regularly, the office spokeswoman told Toronto Star.
The Czech ambassador to Canada, Pavel Vosalik, told the paper that the removal of visas is advantageous for both countries in terms of trade and tourism.
He said the application of the "2-percent limit" in connection with the setting of entry conditions for Czechs is unfair.
Vosalik also challenged the legitimacy of the Czech Romany applications for asylum saying that the Romanies can freely travel and stay around Europe if they believe they are not safe enough in their homeland.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said during his visit to Canada on March 1 that the problem of unsubstantiated asylum applications should be solved by an agreement on the safe country of origin.
Neither Topolanek, nor Czech diplomacy are afraid that Canada might reimpose the visa duty on Czechs, they said previously.
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