Source: Caribbean News Now
The government of Canada has decided to end visa-free travel for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. This decision reportedly relates to concerns over individuals who obtain passports under citizenship by investment programmes in the Caribbean.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, stationed in Trinidad, advised Prime Minister Gaston Browne of this development late on Friday prior to an official announcement on Monday. At the time, the Canadian official said that a concern is that Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship by investment programme is not a residency programme.
In response, Browne pointed to the intense vetting of its CIP system, the revenues to the people of Antigua and Barbuda when the terms of trade and aid have declined and the banking system is threatened.
Despite the end of visa-free travel, the official Canadian government statement said, “Canada continues to welcome visitors from Antigua and Barbuda.” It also stated: “Most approved visa applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa, which allows travellers to visit Canada as many times as they want, for up to ten years. For each visit, travellers can stay for up to six months.”
Antigua and Barbuda is the last of the countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) from whom the Canadian government has withdrawn visa-free travel, at a time of heightened security over terrorism and refugees. Of all 14 independent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas and Barbados are the only ones that continue to enjoy visa-free travel to Canada.
The Canadian government pointed out in its official statement that: “Canada remains firmly committed to its partnership with Antigua and Barbuda and values working together on mutual challenges and opportunities”. The statement recalled that “Canada and Antigua and Barbuda share longstanding ties that are rooted in history.”
Browne stated that, at a time of intensified concerns about terrorism and refugees in North America and Europe, including evidence of ISIS recruits in the Caribbean, he recognized the concerns that Canada and other countries might have. He pledged that, as part of the international effort to combat terrorist activity, Antigua and Barbuda would continue to be vigilant with its passports and border security.
The prime minister said that the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Canada have already started working to make the system of visa applications and approvals for Antigua and Barbuda citizens as efficient and affordable as possible.
After at least a year of discussions between governments on both sides of the Atlantic about national security concerns relating to the Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes, Canada appears to be taking the lead in taking action.
According to a US intelligence source, Canadian authorities have detained at least three and possibly as many as seven Iranians on as yet undisclosed immigration concerns. If the detainees are eventually threatened with deportation, they may then apparently request political asylum, from which it may be reasonably assumed that they did not enter Canada initially as Iranian nationals seeking such asylum but using passports issued by a third country.
Canada’s action is likely to exercise the minds of Schengen Area governments in relation to visa-free access to the 26 European countries that have agreed to allow free movement within this area as a single country.
Meanwhile, another report on Monday stated that a traveller with a passport from Dominica arriving in London from Antigua last Friday, in transit to the EU, was detained by UK Border Force, questioned at length, and had his bags and computer searched. He was reportedly told that he was traveling from “a high risk country”.
Notwithstanding that the traveller was only in transit, and not intending to enter the UK, he was still subject to detention, search and questioning at length, indicating the validity of his passport was one of the issues confronting the UK Border Force officers who detained him.