Less than a year ago, I argued here that a reinstated Canadian visa requirement for visitors from the Czech Republic may happen soon. Since the beginning of 2009, over a thousand Czech Romas have landed in Canada (mostly Toronto), seeking refugee status. In recent weeks, Czech media have published several (so far speculative) reports that visa requirement is imminent (original articles here or here). The Globe and Mail editorial from July 4th calls for exactly such step.
As Canadians of Czech origin, we might assume that our community would be consulted. I don’t know if anyone from the Canadian government bureaucrats is interested about what we have to say about the matter, or whether they have contacted any of our community organizations. Since our numbers are not in hundreds of thousands, and blocking major highways is not our way to get our politicians’ attention, I sincerely doubt it.
It has been documented elsewhere that the Czech Roma do not suffer significantly higher discrimination than in other European countries. They do not go to the USA or the EU, they come specifically to Canada. Why is that? One explanation, although far too convenient and difficult to prove, is that the Czech Roma asylum seekers are part of a well organized human trafficking network run from Toronto and Hamilton. The other explanation is that the Canadian immigration and refugee system is so easy to abuse, it just calls for this to happen – especially if there is a Canadian connection to the whole scheme.
Should the Canadian government move to reimpose visas on the Czech citizens? Absolutely not. This has been, it is, and it will continue to be a Canadian problem first (witness similar problems with citizens of Mexico). Even considering a Czech Roma refugee application is a slap in the face of legitimate asylum seekers, never mind the cost to the taxpayers and the waste of good will among Czechs and Canadians alike. The only solution to this is for the Canadian government to accept that twenty years after the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic (with all its failings) is a free and democratic state, and stop accepting these bogus refugee applications.
Mr. Jason Kenney, the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, is a great friend of Czech Republic and a promoter of closer ties between the two countries. I doubt it would be his wish to reimpose the visa. But maybe he needs our help to deal with the situation. If you think that Canada should not punish thousands of legitimate Czech visitors of Canada for the greed of a few Canadian-based organizers and the government bureaucracy ineptitude, tell him so. You can e-mail Minister@cic.gc.ca or send a letter to:
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Let our voice be heard. We, Canadians of Czech origin, should be consulted, and we should let our politicians know that reimposing visas for our families, friends and business associates is not the way to deal with this problem.