St Lucia Urges Canada to Reconsider After Removal of Visa Exemption

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Above: St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony

By the Caribbean Journal staff

St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony has called the decision by Canada to remove the visa exemption for St Lucians traveling to the country an “unfortunate blow” in a statement.

Earlier this month, Canada’s Immigration Ministry announced that it had removed visa exemptions for travelers from St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, citing what it called an “unacceptably high number of immigration violations.”

The violations primarily came in the form of St Lucians and Vincentians allegedly changing their names and acquiring new passports after they had been removed from Canada as security risks, Canada’s Immigration Ministry said at the time.

Anthony’s Acting Press Secretary, Winston Springer, said St Lucia has issued a recommendation to Canada to address the security and immigration violations, calling them a “mutual concern to both countries in a collaborative manner.”

“St Lucians, and, indeed, the Prime Minister, believe the Canadian government will be aware that the problem of persons seeking entry to North America as a whole, has severely taxed the resources and capabilities of the government authorities here over the years,” Springer said. “The fact is that a serious effort to inhibit these illegal activities would require extremely close cooperation between them, and our police and immigration officials, in circumstances albeit of strict confidentiality and with appropriate security arrangements.”

Canada had also cited an “unacceptably high” number of asylum claims from the two countries in its decision.

Springer said St Lucia was “willing to enter into discussions with the Canadian authorities to put such an initiative in place as quickly as possible, and awaits further discussions and an appropriate response from the government of Canada.”

He also responded to the Canadian government’s claim over allegedly unreliable travel documents.

“While it is true that the current law allows St Lucians to adopt new names by Deed Poll, and that includes those who may have been convicted of crimes, the vast majority of St Lucians who travelled to Canada had safe, reliable and secure documents,” Springer said. “The statement by Canada is unfortunate as it could create unfair and undue suspicion about travel documents held by St Lucians, with the accompanying extreme personal discomfort that such situations can entail.”

Anthony is reportedly sending a letter to Stephen Harper, his Canadian counterpart urging him to reconsider the decision.

St Lucia’s government said the countries “have shared exceedingly close ties for many years.”