Heads of government of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), who met in Dominica on the weekend, have expressed concern over visa restrictions imposed by Canada on two member states of the union.
On September 12, 2012, the Canadian government implemented visa requirements for St. Lucia and St. Vincent mainly due to what it said were “unreliable travel documents” being used by nationals of the two countries.
The Canadian government further stated “In particular, criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports. In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports…. There has also been an unacceptably high number of asylum claims from St. Lucia and St. Vincent, with about one and a half percent and three percent of the population of these countries making asylum claims in Canada over the past five years.”
But at the OECS meeting, current chairman of the union, St. Vincent’s Ralph Gonsavles, said the OECS sees the matter as ‘troubling and unreasonable.’
“We must reaffirm our profound concern about the manner the Canadian authorities implemented the visa restriction and the visa restriction itself,” he said at a press conference. “We consider it unreasonable….we think that it ought not to have been done and certainly not in the manner in which it has been done.”
However, the heads urged their citizens who intend to visit Canada, to do so in accordance with the law and immigration procedures of that country.
The OECS heads of government said they applaud the European Commission for its decision to include Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Schengen visa waiver arrangements, already granted to Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis, for visits to the Schengen Member States for periods of up to 90 days.
The Schengen Area Agreement comprises the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.