Visas on Mexico and Czech Republic close the door on refugees

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Canadian Council for Refugees

Media release

For immediate release

 

Visas on Mexico and Czech Republic close the door on refugees

14 July 2009

The Canadian Council for Refugees today condemned the closing of the door on refugees from Mexico and the Czech Republic, through the imposition of a visa requirement.

“For some people, escape to Canada is the only way to save their lives – and that door has just been closed,” said Roberto Jovel, CCR Vice-President.

Mexico and the Czech Republic join the numerous other countries from which Canada uses visas to block people trying to save their lives by fleeing to Canada. For example, when human rights abuses increased dramatically in Zimbabwe in 2001, Canada imposed a visa requirement, closing the door on Zimbabweans seeking safety.

The CCR is also deeply concerned at the government’s attempt to undermine the legitimacy of claimants fleeing persecution in Mexico or the Czech Republic. It is not appropriate for a Minister to comment on whether refugee claims are founded or not. Such comments may constitute political interference in the refugee determination process. Under Canadian law, the Immigration and Refugee Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal, is responsible for determining who is a refugee.

There are significant numbers of Mexican claimants who have a well-founded fear of persecution, as a result of the high levels of violence linked to organized crime and government corruption. Others are fleeing serious threats of private violence (such as domestic violence) from which the state is unwilling or unable to protect them.

Most of the claimants from the Czech Republic are Roma, a minority group subject to well-documented harassment, racist attacks and societal discrimination. Comments from the Canadian government questioning the bona fides of Roma claimants send the wrong message to the Czech Republic, which should instead be encouraged to act more firmly to protect the rights of its Roma citizens.

The CCR has long been aware that some claimants from Mexico are not fleeing persecution, but have been misled by unscrupulous agents. The CCR has urged the government to take more vigorous action to address fraud against Mexicans.

It is unfair for the government to blame claimants for creating delays in the refugee determination system. The current large backlog of claims is caused by the government’s failure to appoint sufficient Board members to make decisions. The government has thus created an incentive for people to make a claim in Canada in order to work here for a few years, even if they expect that their claim will eventually be refused.

For more information, see Lives in the Balance, http://www.ccrweb.ca/livesinthebalance.htm.

Contact: Colleen French, Communications Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext. 1