Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Government report undermines Kenney's Czech visa policy

Recall the recent visa requirements imposed on Czech citizens? News last night that undercuts the rationale they first offered for the visas: "Czech Roma being persecuted: Canadian government study." The move was said to be aimed at bogus refugee claims from Roma persons in the Czech republic that have attempted to move to Canada. The Conservatives relied upon a study at the time to justify the change:
A recent study by the Immigration Refugee Board found no evidence of state-sponsored persecution against the Roma and documented the steps the Czech government was taking to improve their living conditions.

The study was seen as a way to bolster Canada's decision to try and stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country.
But yesterday a second report was released which contradicted the first:
Incidents of members of the Roma minority in the Czech Republic being firebombed, turned away from restaurants and refused housing by landlords are contained in a fact-finding report released in Ottawa on Monday.

The report by the Immigration and Refugee Board also noted that in May, the Czech government was considering a ban on two extremist political parties after the broadcast of a National Party video on Czech television which called for "the final solution" to the Roma "question."

The report was released two weeks after the Canadian government re-imposed a visa requirement on Czech citizens to reduce the flow of Roma - once known as gypsies - claiming refugee status in Canada. It was the second of two reports from the March 23-31 fact-finding mission.
Immigration and Refugee Board members consult such fact-finding reports to help them determine the credibility and objective basis for individual refugee claims of a "well-founded fear of persecution" or a threat to their life in their home country.(emphasis added)
The second report contradicts the first one, yes, and it also contradicts Jason Kenney's recent statements such as this one:
In June, Mr. Kenney referred to a report on the Czech Republic, conducted by IRB researchers, as proof the Czech government was committed to improving the legal and economic opportunities for Roma, and suggested this was evidence that Czech Roma face no real risk.

"If someone comes in and says the police have been beating the crap out of them, the IRB panelists can then go to their report and say, 'Well, actually, there's been no evidence of police brutality,'" Mr. Kenney told the Toronto Star on June 24.
Well, now there is compelling evidence of persecution produced by his own department. Raising the question of why the visa changes were brought in before this second report could be considered. The Minister must have known it was in the pipeline, undermining the credibility of the visa policy change that was put in place. It reinforces the visa move as a hasty decision that was not based on all the relevant facts. This second departmental report could be grounds for changing the Czech visa policy.

And by the way, on the visa "incident" front with the EU, they are presently considering a reciprocal visa requirement for Canada, a decision to come in September.