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Mexico threatens to cancel official visit to Canada over visa row

An argument has broken out between Mexico and Canada which has led to the South American nation threatening to cancel next year's planned state visit to the latter unless its demands are met.

The Mexican Ambassador to Canada has accused Canada of making the immigration path between the two nations particularly fraught with red tape and has warned that unless it relaxes its requirements, the head of state, President Enrique Pena Nieto will scrap his trip.

The root of the problem
The diplomatic row has broken out due to what Mexico sees as overly-strict immigration controls put in place by Canada which have been deliberately constructed in order to make it difficult for Mexicans to emigrate there.

Francisco Suarez, the Mexican Ambassador to Canada, has said that the President will have no option but to cancel his planned tour in 2014 if immigration rules are not relaxed. More specifically,  Suarez says Mexico is unhappy that a travel visa is required to enter Canada, a condition which the Ambassador describes as a 'major irritant'.

Canada introduced the visa requirement for Mexicans just four years ago when it became concerned at the number of individuals arriving from Mexico who went on to claim asylum. The new rules were designed to allow Canadian officials to carry out a screening test prior to entry. 

Requests for 'useless' facts

Mr Suarez claims that the Canadian visa application is four times longer than the equivalent forms toe enter the US and what's more, contains lots of irrelevant requests.

The Ambassador said that on completing the paperwork he was asked to divulge where and when his parents died, slamming this as 'useless information that goes against common sense'.

He went on to describe the Canadian visa system as the 'most stringent in the world for Mexicans' and urged the government to scrap the need to apply for entry. He also warned that if Canada fails to act on this issue, there could be serious ramifications for relations in other areas, such as the energy project.

Canada ready for change?
Prior to Mr Suarez's condemnations, Canada had already introduced a new system to better control its immigration processes which included creating a new 'safe list' of 35 countries.

Known as the Designated Countries of Origin list, the nations listed have been deemed as safe places to live, where refugees are not common and human rights are respected.

Any resident arriving from one of the countries on this list does not face the same lengthy process for application and can expect to receive a decision in 30-45 days. Mexico has been placed on this list. Human rights campaigners have voiced their concerns, citing gun and drug violence with a death toll of more than 60,000. Despite this, Canada has confirmed Mexico will remain on the Designated Countries of Original list.

But being on the list also means that if any decision is made to reject an application for asylum, there is no right to appeal in the Refugee Appeals Decision of the Federal Court.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has indicated that he would prefer to see some loosening of the immigration controls for Mexico, including the removal of the visa requirement. However, he said that concerns remain for the Canadian government about 'abuse' of the asylum system for Mexican arrivals. 

Image credits: schlaeger and Raul Soriano Meseguer

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