The Canadian Government has repealed the exemption of Batswana from visa requirements citing the level of immigration violations by Botswana passport holders as unacceptably high.
Botswana citizens who held valid passports were previously exempted from applying for visas to enter Canada.
However, for what Canada now terms as unreliability in the authenticity of travel documents from Botswana, the exemption is being annulled.
Early this month, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced that Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland passport holders would now require visas to travel to Canada, effective last Wednesday.
The country’s Citizen and Immigration minister, Mr Jason Kenney, was quoted as saying: “These changes are necessary because all countries concerned have an immigration violation rate of over thirty per cent, well above the level we deem acceptable for countries benefiting from a visa exemption.”
According to CIC, the visa requirements were also imposed due to the excessively high number of asylum seekers from Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland, with Namibia reportedly leading the pack.
According to statistics released by CIC, 71 per cent of the Namibians who visited the country last year later claimed refugee status.
Botswana’ minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, was quoted in the international media saying that he was aware of many Batswana asylum seekers in Canada.
“What I know is that there are many Batswana asylum seekers in Canada. As to how they gained entry into that country, it is still a mystery and that is why Canada could have applied stringent measures,” Batshu said.
He quashed suggestions by some sections of the media that Canada’s decision was because of the poor quality of the Botswana passport. Botswana recently introduced a new e-passport, which has machine-readable electronic features embedded in a micro-processor chip.
“Our passport cannot be the issue; the quality of our passports is good. The problem is that some people have exploited the good relationship that we have with Canada,” he said.
Apparently, citizens from these countries were able to legally change their names to acquire new passports allowing them to re-enter Canada with new passports after being deported from the country.