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Canada Cracking Down on Israelis Who Visit and Seek Refugee Status

Canada has imposed a visa requirement on visitors with temporary Israeli travel documents because of the rapidly increasing number who have claimed refugee status here in the last three years.

The new regulation, announced last week by Employment and Immigration Minister Bernard Valcourt, is intended to halt a stream of bogus refugee claims, many of them filed by Jews from the former Soviet Union, said Canadian Immigration spokeswoman Wendy Bontinen.

The measure stems from “the need to protect the integrity of the refugee system” and control illegal migration, said Bontinen. “We have to demonstrate we have control of our borders.”

Israel issues laissez-passer papers to newly arrived immigrants desiring to travel abroad. The orange-colored “Travel Document in Lieu of National Passport” is replaced by a permanent blue-jacketed passport after one year in the country.

The visa, obtainable from the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv or any Canadian consulate or embassy, costs $50 (Canadian) per individual, including children, for a one-time entry. A multiple-entry visa costs $75.

Those prices, which are payable in Israeli shekels, are based on “cost recovery,” said Bontinen, and are not intended to be a deterrent to visitors. The visa requirement will remain in effect indefinitely, she added.

Israel has become a major source country for refugee applicants in Canada. There were 2,050 Israelis who made refugee claims here in 1992, compared to 218 in 1991 and 65 in 1990.

Of the 245 cases heard to completion last year, 68 were granted refugee status. The figure was 53 in 1991 and 16 in 1990.

The visa requirement will not affect or inconvenience citizens of Israel traveling on regular Israeli passports to Canada. Those passports continue to be visa-exempt.

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