Mexico says President may cancel trip to Canada in visa row

The Mexican ambassador to Canada, Francisco Suarez, has said that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto will not make a planned official visit to Canada next year unless the Canadian government acts to remove the requirement that Mexicans obtain travel visas before visiting Canada.

Mr Suarez has said that he would like to see a 'roadmap' put in place which he hopes will eventually lead to the removal of the requirement. This, he told The Canadian Press, would ensure that the matter is not forgotten.

'We are now saying that this is a major irritant' Mr Suarez said. He continued 'We're now really mad. Canada has the most stringent visa system for Mexicans of any country in the world'. He added 'President Pena Nieto cannot come here if the topic is not solved'.

Intergovernmental cooperation at risk

Mr Suarez also warned that the issue could affect Canadian-Mexican relations more in other areas such as cooperation on energy projects.

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that he would like to see the visa requirement removed but Canadian immigration has concerns about abuse of the asylum system by Mexican claimants.

Canada imposed the visa requirement for visitors from Mexico in 2009 after a spike in the number of Mexicans claiming asylum. The visa was introduced as a way of screening out those likely to claim asylum in Canada. It had limited success. There were still about 6,000 asylum claims from Mexicans in 2011, 83% of which were rejected.

Designated Country of Origin List

By 2012, the Canadian government, worried that its asylum system was being abused, announced that it would reform its asylum procedures. The then immigration minister Jason Kenney announced the Designated Countries of Origin list. This is a list of 35 countries which are deemed to be safe; The Canadian Government says that they respect human rights and do not normally 'produce refugees'.

Applications from nationals of the "safe countries" on the list will be decided in 30-45 days. Applicants from designated countries whose applications are refused have no right to appeal refusals to the Refugee Appeal Division of the Federal Court.

They can therefore be removed from the country quicker. Before the changes were introduced asylum applications took about 18 months to be decided.

Asylum claims from Hungary cut by 98%

The Designated Country of Origin system was introduced at the end of December 2012. The Canadian government issued a statement in February 2013 saying that asylum claims from Hungary, the top source country for asylum claimants in 2011 and 2012, had already been cut by 98%.

Since then, Mexico has been placed on the Designated Countries of Origin list. Human rights campaigners object, saying that Mexico is not a safe country in which to live. They say that, since 2006, there has been a 'drugs war' between the government and powerful drugs cartels which make money out of drugs, largely by smuggling them to the US.

Well over 60,000 people have been killed so far. Nonetheless, the fact that Mexico is now on the Designated Countries of Origin list may persuade Canada to remove the visa requirement and could therefore avert a diplomatic row.

Visa forms request 'a lot of useless information'

Mr Suarez has spoken out about Canadian visas before. In July 2013, he complained that Canadian visa application forms request 'a lot of useless information that goes against common sense'. Canadian visa forms, he said, are four times longer than US forms.

He complained that he was offended at having been asked to disclose where and when his parents had died. 'They're dead. Twenty years ago. Why do I have to give information?' he said. He advised Canada to 'get rid of the useless information'.

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