Asymmetric Borders: The Canada-Czech Republic ‘Visa War’ and the Question of Rights

Friday, 5 November 2010
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Visa policy is one of the most important areas for contemporary public policy, touching on issues of mobility, citizenship, rights, and security. This paper argues that visa policy must: 1) be placed in a national, historical context, 2) be understood as part of a mobility regime that includes identity documents, passports, preclearance, and refugee status adjudication and 3) be analysed with a view to rights and responsibilities. After providing a history of Canadian immigration and visa policies, it highlights several trends in contemporary mobility policy: the automation of decision-making, the use of risk-assessment for security purposes and the reliance on preclearance of Canada-bound travel by specifically focusing on the Canada-Czech Republic ‘visa war’ and the changes to Canadian practices since then. The authors conclude that one of the dominant results of the ‘off-shoring’ of border controls is the bureaucratisation of decision-making in spaces where rights are difficult to invoke. This development must be a matter of concern for those concerned with rights, particularly mobility rights.

This work was prepared as part of a project on Migration and Asylum in Europe and EU-Canada Relations, funded by the European Commission, Directorate-General for External Relations, Relations with the US and Canada. The project aims at providing a better understanding of the conceptual, political, sociological and legal elements and dilemmas characterising the development of common European public responses to these issues, and their implications for the relationship between liberty and security in EU-Canada relations.

Mark B. Salter is Associate Professor at the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa. Can E. Mutlu is a Doctoral candidate at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.