Visa imposition worries refugee advocates

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By Jake Wright, the Hill Times

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks at a press conference earlier this month. He announced Sept. 11 the imposition of visas on Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Namibia, Botswana, and Swaziland.

Some people who work with refugees say the government’s recent decision to impose visas on citizens of five countries could end up hurting legitimate refugees for whom the move could mean less access to seek refuge.

One of the affected countries has also expressed “disappointment and dismay” in Canada’s decision.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Sept. 11 that Canada would require visas from citizens travelling to Canada from three southern African countries (Botswana, Namibia, and Swaziland) and two Caribbean countries (Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines).

For the three southern African countries, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s news release stated that “human trafficking, especially of minors, and fraudulent documents are of significant concern.” It also noted that 71 per cent of Namibian travellers to Canada made asylum claims in 2011.

The two Caribbean countries have “unreliable travel documents” that have meant criminals can legally change their names and get new passports. Some people kicked out of Canada because they were security risks returned later using different passports, the release stated.

It also said that both Saint Vincent and Saint Lucia have seen their citizens submit “an unacceptably high number of asylum claims” to Canada. In the past five years, one and a half per cent of the Saint Lucia’s 162,000 citizens, and three per cent of Saint Vincent’s 103,000 people have made asylum claims in Canada.

While some of the affected countries’ officials say they were caught off guard by the decision, the Canadian government says all were told before the public announcement that a visa requirement was coming.

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