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Canadian Minister of State – Foreign Affairs, Gonsalves meet on visa matter

Canadian Minister of State – Foreign Affairs, Gonsalves meet on visa matter


The Canadian government has said they will review their pronouncements that visa restrictions were imposed on Vincentians travelling to Canada because of unreliable travel documents, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced yesterday.{{more}}

Gonsalves told a press briefing in Kingstown that he spoke with Diane Ablonczy, Canada’s Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas during his trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly last week.

The prime minister said Ablonczy promised she would review the official pronouncements, which, he said, erroneously labelled Vincentian travel documents as unreliable.

He said he emphasized the quality, security features and laws protecting Vincentian passports and the positive reviews that the documents have received from independent analysts.

In St Vincent, if a person changes their name, the original name is also included in their passport, so authorities know it is the same person, Gonsalves explained.

He further said the process for obtaining a Vincentian passport is rigid.

“It does not mean that even if you have a good system, it doesn’t mean people can’t beat it,” the prime minister, however, said.

One man was this year convicted of obtaining a passport in a dead man’s name.

Gonsalves said the man being caught and sentenced to three years in jail meant the system was working.

“Because we have checks which can be made,” Gonsalves said.

He said the Canadian official had informed him that the primary reason for imposing the visa restriction was the high numbers of fraudulent asylum applications coming from this country.

Gonsalves further explained that he was informed that the cost to Canadian taxpayers for an application for asylum was at least Canadian $50,000 for legal costs and assistance.

“Economics has driven them to impose the visa restrictions, simple and straightforward,” Gonsalves told media practitioners.

He said asylum applications had now become a business and people were taking advantage of the situation.

“But they want to give me a black eye and in the meantime they maligning the country and looking opportunistic and foolish,” the prime minister said.

Gonsalves wrote a four-page letter to Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, on September 13, two days after the visa requirement announcement.

Gonsalves said Ablonczy informed him that she was pleased to see he had included something in the letter that the Canadian authorities had been considering.

“I wrote that one of the things to consider is countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines with good legal and good social framework to say that countries like that cannot be countries by which refugees can come,” Gonsalves said.

“So, you declare them by law where no applications can be made except in the most extreme circumstance,” he said.

Gonsalves said if Canada does that and passports are safe, then the visa restriction will no longer be required. (DD)