February 27, 2018 – Asylum claims from Romanians have spiked since the lifting of the Canada visa requirement for the European Union country on December 1, 2017.
Figures show 232 Romanians have claimed asylum here since the requirement was lifted, compared to 120 claims in the whole of 2016.
The rise has already resulted in an Ottawa meeting between Canadian and Romanian government officials.
If the number of asylum claims reaches a certain level in the first 12 months after the visa requirement is lifted, there is a possibility it will be reimposed. Officials have not revealed the number that will result in the policy change being revisited.
Meanwhile, there has been no such spike in asylum claims from Bulgarians, who saw their visa requirement lifted at the same time as Romanians.
Travellers from both countries now only need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada by air. For all other means of travel, no means of pre-authorization is required.
Canada agreed to lift the visa requirement for Romanians and Bulgarians after officials from the two countries threatened not to sign a crucial trade deal.
The Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA, became law in September, giving Canada access to the world’s largest market outside the U.S., with 98 per cent of Canadian goods now entering the EU free of tariffs.
With uncertainty over trade with the U.S. – Canada’s largest trade partner – the deal giving Canadian companies access to a $20 trillion market became of utmost importance.
Opposition, particularly from Belgium but also from Romania and Bulgaria, had threatened to derail the deal at the final hurdle.
The visa issue with Bulgaria and Romania began when the EU changed its rules back in 2014.
Under the rule change, all countries granted visa-free access to the EU bloc had to provide the same privilege to all EU members in return.
Countries were given two years to provide the access, or face losing their visa-free access.
Canada was reluctant to grant the access to Romania and Bulgaria, with former Immigration Minister John McCallum saying neither met the requirements.
But when the issue became tied to CETA, Canada was left with no bargaining room.
Canada lifted the visa requirement for Mexicans from December 1, 2016, and has since seem a marked increase in asylum claims.
Canada has also said it will reimpose the Mexico visa requirement if it gets too many claims.
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