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Number of Czech visa applicants in Canada slightly rising

Prague, 4.7.2008 18:04

The number of Czech asylum seekers in Canada has slightly risen over the past three months as the figures stood at the average 53 between last November and this March and in the subsequent three months at 60, Magdalena Firtova, Canadian embassy spokeswoman, told CTK today.

She said it could not be ruled out that if the influx of Czech asylum seekers did not ebb, Canada might reimpose the visa requirements for Czechs.

However, this is not being envisaged now, Firtova added.

Canada lifted the visas for Czechs in October 2007. It re-introduced visas for Czechs in 1997 after lifting them for a short period, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the the Czech Republic, primarily Romanies.

The number of mostly Romany asylum seekers has been increasing since last November. In December, there were 83 of them, while in the previous year, no Romany asked for asylum in Canada.

Over the first five months since the Canadian visas were lifted, a total of 267 Czechs asked for asylum, but only two Latvians and five Estonians.

Canada lifted the visa requirements for Latvia in the same month as for Czechs, and for Estonia a year earlier.

By the end of June, Canadian authorities registered a total of 449 requests from Czech citizens.

The Canadian media has written that influx of Czech Romany asylum seekers is a source of concern.

Toronto Star wrote in March that this development caused apprehensions that the situation of 1996 when some 4,000 Czech Romanies arrived in Canada after it lifted travel restrictions for Czechs could repeat.

It said 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.

Firtova told CTK the two countries were closely cooperating on making the decision to lift visas for Czechs to be durable.

Last autumn, Canada was assured by the Czech Republic in written that it would strengthen cooperation in immigration questions and in the enforcement of law.

The Canadian media has written that due to the growing anti-Romany neo-Nazi and skinhead movement in the Czech Republic the situation has worsened since the Czech Republic entered the EU.

The pressure by the EU is now smaller than when the Czech Republic sought its admission.

Jeff Sahadeo, director of the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, said Romany immigration was caused by serious obstacles faced by Romanies when seeking education and jobs.

Sahadeo said it was difficult to suppose that refugees from the Czech Republic would be able to prove that their wish to stay in Canada was legal.

The Czech Republic is an open, democratic country, but with a high level of latent discrimination, he added.

Canadian Immigration Minister Diane Finley comes to Prague on July 17. She is scheduled to meet a number of Czech representatives and discuss cooperation, including exchange of information, Firtova said.

No Czech has received asylum since October 1, 2007, Firtova said.

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