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SVG to hold talks with Canadian authorities

SVG to hold talks with Canadian authorities

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This country’s government intends to hold talks with the Canadian government in an effort to have that country rescind a decision made earlier this week, which now mandates that Vincentians obtain a visa to gain entry into the North American country.{{more}}

Foreign Minister Dr Douglas Slater told reporters this on Wednesday, as he updated them at the conference room of the Service Commissions Department, on the decision which became effective September 11.

According to Slater, the decision by Canada to revoke the visa exemption this country previously enjoyed has left the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) government “quite disappointed”, but he stated that despite this, both countries still maintain good diplomatic relations.

He told reporters that he had not yet received a the official diplomatic note from the Canadians in respect of the decision.

The Foreign Minister expressed concern about a release on Tuesday from Citizen and Immigration Canada, which stated that “a key reason why the Government has imposed visa requirements on St Lucia and St Vincent is unreliable travel documents…”

“This is an issue we strongly contest and we will continue to do so. While we await the diplomatic note, we have been advised that in the note the reason is different. It is related to the asylum or refugee seekers, another issue which we contest to an extent,” Slater said.

Slater said the Canadian authorities had admitted that they recognise that the claims brought by Vincentians for refugee status were “by and large, fake”.

“Our argument is, if we can prove to them or we think we can demonstrate that our passport or our travel documents are not unreliable and the case of the asylum seekers, they themselves have indicated that they do not consider St Vincent to be a country where the asylum seeking claim is a reasonable one or it is bogus…,” Slater said.

Slater said that Vincentians who were in Barbados en route to Canada on Wednesday had at first not been allowed to board flights there. He, however, said contact was made with the Canadian High Commissioner, following which, the travellers were alllowed to board the flights. He referred to information posted on the Canadian High Commission website, which stated that up to 11:59 pm on September 12, anyone in en route would be allowed to land In Canada and unless they were otherwise inadmissible, granted a temporary visa.

Slater said on several occasions, members of government had warned persons who had been making bogus claims about being persecuted in St Vincent in various forms, in an effort to get their permanent stay in Canada.

“I don’t think there is any honest Vincentian who will admit St Vincent is a country where people are being persecuted to the extent of their religious, political or sexual preference that will justify them to claim they are refugees,” Slater stated.

He added that the recent announcement now leaves very few Caribbean countries that do not require a visa to go to Canada. Slater said of CARICOM countries, only Antigua, St Kitts/Nevis, Barbados and the Bahamas do not require visas.

Slater said he feels as if St Vincent has been “given a hard hand”. He, however, is of the belief that they have a strong and fair case.

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