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Cablegate: Canadian Visas for Mexicans, Part Two

VZCZCXRO3961
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2692 2542252
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 112252Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8205
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2653
RUEHGA/AMCONSUL CALGARY 0022
RUEHHA/AMCONSUL HALIFAX 0029
RUEHMT/AMCONSUL MONTREAL 0001
RUEHQU/AMCONSUL QUEBEC 0024
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO 0032
RUEHVC/AMCONSUL VANCOUVER 0078

UNCLAS MEXICO 002692

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS ECON PGOV PREF MX CA
SUBJECT: CANADIAN VISAS FOR MEXICANS, PART TWO

REF: MEXICO 2079

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Since Canada's sudden imposition of a visa
requirement for Mexican (and Czech) tourists on July 16, the Mexican
government has countered only with a visa requirement for Canadian
diplomats. Despite the initial visa backlog and outcry by the
Mexican media that the requirement was unjustified, the measure
seems to have worked: Mexican application volume has stabilized and
the number of Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada has dropped
dramatically. With the initial visa rush over, the Canadian Embassy
is adjusting to the long term reality of visa processing in Mexico.
END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Canada's decision to impose visa requirements on Mexican
tourists on July 14 - to take effect 48 hours later -- was a
surprise to some and a shock to the thousands of Mexicans who had
already made travel plans, as reported Reftel. In the days
following the announcement, travelers as well as media, immigration,
and tourism officials within Mexico were widely critical of the
measure. As block-long queues of visa applicants formed in front of
the Canadian Embassy, Mexican public opinion called for reciprocal
measures; the Mexican government subsequently imposed a visa
requirement for Canadian diplomats. Many tourists and officials
lamented the visa requirement had been imposed at the very peak of
tourist season. The Mexican press was filled with reports of
Mexican tourists who had missed flights, inadequate preparation by
the Canadian Embassy to handle the large numbers of visa applicants,
and allegedly boorish treatment of visa applicants by Canadian
immigration officials. On August 10, Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper, in Guadalajara for trilateral talks with Presidents
Calderon and Obama, attempted to defuse the controversy when he said
that the visa requirement was designed to address a flaw in Canadian
law which encouraged bogus refugee claims, and was not intended as a
rebuke of Mexico or the Mexican government.
3. (SBU) The imposition of the visa requirement and the lack of
advance notice was a PR-fiasco for Canada in Mexico, but it appears
that that storm has now largely passed. A Canadian Embassy official
tells us that us that immigration officers worked hundred-hour weeks
the first month after the policy change processing up to 1200 visas
a day, in an effort to address demand and minimize inconvenience to
the Mexican traveling public. As of September 1, the Embassy had
processed 23,880 visas, including about 2000 students and 2000
unskilled laborers. The same official claims that few, if any
travelers were actually delayed, or had to cancel planned travel
because of the visa requirement. In any event, complaints about the
visa requirement have largely disappeared from the Mexican press.

4. (SBU) The initial visa rush appears to be over; visa application
numbers have stabilized at about 450 per day. The Canadian Embassy
is turning to long-term planning to deal with Mexican visa demand.
The Embassy has hired the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), the
same subcontractor that serves Mission Mexico, to facilitate the
collection of applicants' personal data apart from biometrics, which
is still being debated. The first Canadian Visa Application Center
(VAC) will be launched in Mexico City on October 14, and similar
centers are planned for January in Guadalajara, and Monterrey, where
it will be located in the same building as the U.S. visa applicant
service center.
5. (SBU) Finally, we understand from the Canadian Embassy that the
visa requirement appears to have achieved its objective of
discouraging often frivolous refugee claims by Mexican citizens.
Where once Canada received as many as 800 Mexican refugee claims per
month, there have been no more than 40 claims since the
implementation of visa restrictions in mid-July, according to an
Embassy source.
6. (SBU) COMMENT. Embassy Mexico reached out to our Canadian
colleagues, providing advice on visa processing and appointment
administration; the GOC Consular corps responded professionally and
efficiently. While this item will surely remain on Mexico's
bilateral agenda with Canada, the initial uproar has died down as
Mexicans adjust to the new requirement. END COMMENT
PASCUAL

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