I have little patience for some aspects of politics. Of particular annoyance is when a politician has nothing to say, but must respond anyway.
Take, for example, the situation currently brewing between Canada and the Czech Republic. Canada has introduced the requirement that all visitors from the Czech Republic and Mexico must have a visa to enter Canada. According to the CBC,
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the government introduced the requirement to stem a surge in refugee claims by visitors from those countries. Kenney said “economic immigrants” are clogging up the country’s immigration process for people who have genuine refugee claims.
So how has the Czech Republic reacted? It seems they’ve seen the need to respond, but they really don’t have much of substance to say. Since when has that stopped a politician? In this instance, it’s Czech Republic consul general Richard Krpac.
Krpac said the Czech government does agree that some people from his country are “abusing or finding loopholes in the Canadian asylum system.” However, Krpac said the Czech Republic disagrees with how Canada has handled the situation, calling the move “unfriendly.”
So there is a problem. The Czech government acknowledges it. They also disagree with how we’ve handled it. Can we contrast our actions with their attempts at a solution? Apparently not, because I’ve heard no whisper of any action of their part. If they have been working on this, their efforts appear to have failed. The problem is here, and we’ve taken action that’s completely within our rights as a sovereign nation. Call it unfriendly if you feel the need, but I’d also say that our having to deal with a problem that their people have caused us isn’t giving me a glowing feeling about the Czech government.
“You are not only preventing the asylum claims, but you are also preventing 30,000 Czech tourists coming into Canada every year,” he said, adding more than 400 soldiers from the Czech Republic are fighting alongside Canadians in Afghanistan.
Preventing tourists from coming to Canada? Not at all. They just need to get a visa. It’s not rocket science, and it surely it isn’t an issue of cost. The price of a visa isn’t going to be prohibitive to a Czech who can afford a transatlantic vacation. Besides, we surely had visitors from the Czech Republic when visas were required before 2007. And Afghanistan? A complete non sequitur. Nice try, though.
“Introducing [a] visa to a country such as this is — as far as the international law is concerned — unfriendly. It’s unilateral and it’s not really traditional,” he said.
Last I heard, international law doesn’t legislate friendliness. Canada is friendly to nations that are friendly in return.
Krpac would be wise to avoid any mention of the word ‘unilateral.’ There were no complaints about our unilateral action of lifting the visa requirement for Czech visitors in 2007. It was this action that opened the floodgates. In a press release, Citizenship and Immigration Canada stated Czech nationals filed a total of five refugee claims in 2006. In 2007, the number grew to 3000. Further, more than half of the claims were abandoned or withdrawn before a decision could be made by the Immigration and Refugee Board. It seems curious that more than half of the claimants, who by definition are afraid for their safety and lives, would withdraw or abandon their attempts to come to safety here.
Canada removed the visa requirement and the number of refugee claims increased 500 times, with strong indications than most claims were not legitimate. It seems to me that reinstating the visa requirement is both reasonable and likely to solve the problem.
But the Czech Republic is displeased, even though their visa-free status was in place for only 2½ years. So they’re going to show us how to be friendly and ask that the European Union impose a similar restriction on Canadians entering any of the 27 member states. Why they didn’t see the need to do this before 2006 is your best guess. This action seems to be an escalation rather than an equivalent response, but like the rest of the EU, the Czech Republic gave up control of its borders when it joined the union. It cannot retaliate against Canada on its own.
Krpac went further, stating,
“We don’t want to see that, but you have to understand that the international law is sort of reciprocal kind of matter.”
Yes, they don’t want to see this retaliation, but they will try to make it happen anyway. ‘International law made us do it,’ it appears.