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Refugee claims in Canada from 1999 to 2008. Refugee claims in Canada from 1999 to 2008.

Visa change coming but with conditions

Canada to lift visa restriction but will monitor refugee claims from Mexico

The Canadian government will allow Mexican citizens to visit without a visa starting December 1, but there will be conditions, according to a report yesterday.

According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, those conditions will be in the form of limits on refugee claims. If the number of asylum-seekers exceeds 3,500 within any 12-month period, there will be a partial reimposition of the visa requirement.

Immigration authorities had recommended against lifting the visa restriction on the grounds that it will drive more Mexicans to seek refuge in Canada to escape low standards of living, human rights violations and crime.

Another fear was that citizens of other Latin American countries could take advantage of a weak passport system in Mexico in order to gain entry into Canada.

The visa restriction was imposed by Canada’s previous government in 2009 following an increase in refugee claims. Those claims fell from more than 9,000 to 1,199 as a result.

Canadian immigration officials predicted that claims would increase once again, forecasting that lifting the restriction would result in 3,500 claims in 2017, 6,000 in 2018 and 9,000 a year later.

Unidentified sources told the newspaper that Mexico has assured Canada it will share security and background information on Mexican travelers, similar to a practice already in place between the United States and Canada.

In addition, Mexico will warn its citizens that obtaining refugee status in Canada is not easy.

The visa decision is to be announced Tuesday in Ottawa after bilateral meetings between President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Peña Nieto will also be in Canada, along with U.S. President Barack Obama, for a North American Leaders’ Summit, also known as the Three Amigos Summit.

Another move by Canada’s previous administration was the inclusion of Mexico on a list of countries it believed were safe and therefore unlikely to produce valid refugee claimants. That action was taken in 2012 and generated objections from human rights activitists.

Another objection has come in the form of a report by the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, which says Mexico should be removed from the list immediately.

“While Mexico has undertaken significant reforms to combat discrimination and human rights violations, people living with HIV, sexual minorities and other vulnerable Mexicans still have little protection when their rights are violated,” said Samer Muscati, director of the program and the report’s author.

He said Mexico’s failure to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable for violent crimes against marginalized people is at odds with Canada’s designation of the country as safe.

Source: Globe and Mail (en), Canadian Press (en)

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