Canada imposes visa rule on Mexico, Czech Republic

Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:04pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada aims to crack down on a flood of what it considers bogus refugee claims by imposing a travel visa requirement on people from Mexico and the Czech Republic, the Canadian government said on Monday.

The new rule goes into effect on Tuesday, although for the first 48 hours travelers from the two countries will be able to apply for a visa upon entry into the country.

Mexico is the biggest source of refugee claimants in Canada, with claims tripling since 2005 to 9,400 last year, or 25 percent of the total. Only 11 percent were accepted.

"In addition to creating significant delays and spiraling new costs in our refugee program, the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution," said Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.

"All too often, people who really need Canada's protection find themselves in a long line, waiting for months and sometimes years to have their claims heard. This is unacceptable," he said.

The visa requirement for the Czech Republic had been lifted in 2007 and the number of refugee claims shot up after that. The government said it suspected many cases were not genuine because they were withdrawn or abandoned before a final decision was made.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)