Czech Republic rejects Canadian proposal for return of asylum seekers
Speaking prior to today's side meeting with Canadian PM Stephen Harper during the NATO summit in Chicago, Czech PM Petr Nečas told the Czech Press Agency and Czech Radio that Canada would like to conclude an agreement with Prague addressing the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic, however, has refused, saying there is no need to exceed the relevant agreements already in place between the countries. Three years ago, Canada reinstated obligatory visas for Czech citizens due to the high number of asylum seekers with Czech passports. The Czech Republic rejected that step at the time and has repeatedly criticized it.
"The idea was proposed that another treaty might be signed to address the departure of asylum seekers from Canada. We are convinced that there are legal and political reasons that would be impossible, by which I mean, for example, European norms, including the Lisbon Treaty," said Nečas, adding that the initiative for today's meeting came from the Canadian side.
Nečas said the Czech Republic primarily wants the visa obligation lifted. Canada wants to solve the problem of people who don't want to leave the country even when their asylum requests fail. "We don't have any reason to complicate their lives, but there is a treaty instrument available to us already which already facilitates such steps," the PM said.
Canada and the Czech Republic signed a so-called readmission treaty in 1996. Agreements of this type establish a mechanism for the return of persons who refuse to take advantage of the opportunity to do so voluntarily. "We are convinced that those now there who do not succeed in receiving asylum can leave Canada on the basis of the readmission treaty. It is not necessary to conclude a new treaty between Canada and the European Union on this matter, nor between Canada and individual Member States like the Czech Republic," Nečas said.
On the question of visa obligations, the Czech PM said one step that might prove positive is the new asylum law which should take effect in Canada this year. The norm significantly narrows the criteria for granting asylum and is meant to prevent the alleged abuse of the country's asylum system. Among other things, it is supposed to incorporate a list of so-called "safe countries" which would include the Czech Republic. Asylum requests filed by citizens of countries on the list would be handled through an accelerated procedure.
Prague has previously pointed out that while Canada has reintroduced the visa obligation for citizens of the Czech Republic, it has not imposed such restrictions on Hungary or Slovakia. When Czech Radio asked Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg in Chicago whether this situation is fair, his response was: "As our national classic 'The Good Soldier Švejk' says, 'The world is full of crap and no justice'."