Czech Republic objects to Canada visa move

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic objected to the reintroduction of visas for its citizens by Canada on Tuesday, bringing home its ambassador to Canada and asking for support from fellow EU members to have the decision reversed.

Canada reinstated a visa requirement on Czech visitors on Tuesday after hundreds of Roma from the central European ex-communist state sought asylum there.

The Roma asylum seekers say they have been discriminated against by the majority ethnic Czech population, a view backed by human rights agencies.

“The government considers reimposing the visa duty a unilateral and unfriendly step,” Prime Minister Jan Fischer told reporters after a special government meeting called to debate the Canada move.

The visa requirement for the Czech Republic had been lifted in 2007 and the number of refugee claims shot up after that. The government said it suspected many cases were not genuine as they were withdrawn or abandoned before a final decision was made.

Fischer said, along with the other measures, the Czechs would call back their ambassador to Canada for consultations and introduce visas for Canadian diplomats and civil servants.

Being a member of the European Union the Czech Republic cannot reciprocally and individually impose visas on Canadians as it must respect the policy of the bloc, which has a non-visa arrangement with Canada.

Fischer said Czech diplomats would launch talks with the European Commission which should propose steps toward Canada within three months. He blamed Canada’s asylum system for the Czech Roma outflow to the North American state, saying it was prone to abuse.

Reporting by Jan Korselt; Writing by Jana Mlcochova