Brussels wants answers on Roma asylum requests in Canada

17th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Canada on Monday imposed visas on Czechs to counter what it said was a steady influx of Roma asylum applicants from the Czech Republic.

Stockholm -- The European Commission wants to know why thousands of Czech Roma are seeking asylum in Canada before commenting on Ottawa's decision to impose visa requirements on the Czech Republic, the EU's top justice official Jacques Barrot said Thursday.

"We need to examine the complaints formulated by Canada against the Czech Republic and determine if they are founded before reacting," Barrot, the European commissioner for justice and security, told reporters at a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Stockholm.

"It would be a paradox if EU citizens have to seek asylum in a third country because they are being discriminated against," he stressed.

"If it turns out that Canada's decision is not founded, then at that point we will impose the rules of reciprocity against Canada," he warned, meaning Canadians would have to apply for a visa to visit any one of the 27 EU member states.

Canada on Monday imposed visas on Czechs to counter what it said was a steady influx of Roma asylum applicants from the Czech Republic.

The Czech government reacted to Canada's decision on Tuesday by introducing visas for Canadian diplomats and recalling its ambassador in Canada for consultations.

Prague cannot impose visas on all Canadians under EU laws, but has threatened to do so nonetheless and has urged its EU partners to show their solidarity.

According to an EU source, if the Czechs were to carry through their threat they would be in violation of the Schengen accord on freedom of movement within the 25-country zone, which includes non-EU members Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.

The problem is a sensitive one. If the Canadian accusations were to be proven true -- that EU citizens were being discriminated against in an EU country -- "it would be shameful for Europe," the source said.

Asylum issues in Canada are decided by an independent authority, which considers that an asylum seeker's state must do its utmost to protect them against the persecutors.

"The asylum system is very generous and 40 percent of requests are accepted," which explains the Canadian authorities' concerns, another source close to the issue said.

AFP/Expatica

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