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Antigua wants Canada to resume visa-free travel for its citizens

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua CMC — Prime Minister Gaston Browne has written to Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, concerning a response Trudeau gave during a recent town hall meeting on Canada ending visa-free access for holders of Antigua and Barbuda passports.

In his response to a question, Trudeau said the reason for imposing visa requirements on Antigua and Barbuda is that the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) did not have the level of stringency and analysis to satisfy Canada's high standards for border control and security, according to an Antigua and Barbuda Government statement on the weekend.

Browne said he welcomed Trudeau's comments since they cast light on the reasons for his government's actions and “provide an opportunity for measures to be implemented that should cause the Canadian authorities to reinstate visa-free access to Canada for Antigua and Barbuda passport holders”.

“Since I am not aware of the depth of Canada's standards for border control and security, I am unable to comment on whether our very intense vetting system somehow fell short of meeting Canadian standards,” Browne said.

“However, I am obliged to point out that our system involves four levels of stringent vetting of applicants, before approval, including by INTERPOL and the Joint Regional Communications Centre in which the relevant agencies of Canada participate,” he added.

Browne said that the response from Trudeau on the visa matter could also open the way for lifting the visa restrictions on Antigua and Barbuda and restoring the traditional relationship of trust and cooperation “that has always existed between the two nations”.

“You said that Canada is happy to work with Antigua and Barbuda to ensure that our CIP systems meet Canada's high standards, and that if Antigua and Barbuda makes significant improvements necessary to its programme, you could then look at lifting the visa requirements,” he told Trudeau.

In a letter to Trudeau in June 2017, Browne said his Government was “ready to provide evidence of our unflinching and aggressive vetting processes for applicants seeking our citizenship.We also remain ready to invite the fullest possible involvement by Canadian authorities in bolstering the process”, he said.

In his correspondence on the weekend, the Antiguan prime minister again extended an invitation to the Canadian Government to review the country's CIP programme, “without restraint”, and to make recommendations for implementing improvements that would satisfy Canadian standards and provide the opportunity for Canada to verify implementation.

“Incidentally, we would not regard this as surrendering sovereignty over our affairs to Canada; we recognise that we live in an inter-dependent world where the pooling of sovereignty is necessary to achieve joint objectives, particularly in relation to security,” Browne said. “Therefore, our invitation to Canada is voluntary and mutually beneficial; it is not a yielding of sovereignty.”

The Antiguan prime minister also told Trudeau that High Commissioner Sir Ronald Sanders is scheduled to be in Ottawa on January 31 and February 1 for meetings with officials of his government, adding that it is his hope that “the matter could be advanced during discussions”.

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