Canada makes visa change

bob_mugJOHANNESBURG The Canadian government recently made an administrative change, but assured the international community that it did not mean a relaxation of the targeted measures against President Robert Mugabe (pictured) and his more than 100 allies.

The government replaced Operational Bulletin (OB) 066, in relation to visa applications for Zanu (PF) members listed under Europes targeted measures, with OB 278.

OB 278 is an administrative change, which was issued in order to clarify and facilitate the work of CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) officials and to provide a more strategic, targeted definition of individuals whose applications to enter Canada require greater scrutiny, Claude Rochon, Media Relations Officer for Canadas Foreign Affairs and International Trade, told ***The Zimbabwean in an email Wednesday.

Far-fetched conclusion

Mugabe and more than 100 other Zanu (PF) officials, including some senior security chiefs aligned to the regime, are under travel restrictions in Europe because of their gross human rights abuses, which have spanned the past decade and have resulted in thousands of deaths, injuries and displacements of perceived political opponents.

When the Canadian government made the change recently, some thought that it signalled a relaxation of the measures, but Ottawa said this was a far-fetched conclusion.

OB 278 recognizes that there are some senior Zimbabwean officials within the government who are interested in serious reforms and in an improvement in the lives of Zimbabweans and OB 278 will facilitate the processing of visa applications for those individuals.

It does not change the way that we will process applications from those who are not working for reform, and specifically, for those individuals who remain on our list of designated individuals.

The measures target those in power who have engaged in activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe and are not intended to affect the Zimbabwean people.

She added that Canada was concerned that despite modest progress made by the inclusive government, the threat of violence, harassment and intimidation continues to be employed by Zimbabwean state security and paramilitary forces against activists, members of the media, trade unionists, MDC Ministers and MPs and those suspected of being opposed to Zanu (PF).

Canada has spoken out regularly against such violence and intimidation and strongly condemns this flagrant abuse of human rights, added Rochon.

Genuine change

In view of the serious economic, humanitarian, and human rights challenges facing Zimbabwe, it is essential that the Government of Zimbabwe ensures genuine shifts in policy, continued implementation of the GPA and continued efforts to foster demonstrable change towards democratic governance, peace, respect for human rights, and security and stability in Zimbabwe.

She added that Canada would continue to use bilateral and multilateral channels to advance the cause of reform in Zimbabwe, with its policies that aim to assist the Zimbabwean people directly, while maintaining firm political and diplomatic pressure in favour of a peaceful, democratic resolution to Zimbabwe’s political stalemate.

The new move by Canada, which comes in light of some improvements in the situation in Zimbabwe and reforms in the Zimbabwe government, the Ministerial Instructions were modified under OB278 to identify specific individuals of concern, leaving out the family members of designated persons, except where they are themselves designated persons.

Effective February 1, 2011, all applications, including those for study and work permits, received from nationals of Zimbabwe will be screened by the receiving officer to determine whether the applicant is, or may be a designated person pursuant to the Special Economic Measures (Zimbabwe) Regulations.

Canada Border Service Agencys Border Service Officers at Ports of Entry should continue to be aware of the designated persons listed in the Schedule, reads a part of the OB 278.

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