October 31, 2014
Ebola Crisis: Canada Joins Australia, Issues Visa Restrictions On West African Passports

Canada has joined the rank of select countries that have decided to impose temporary visa restrictions on people from the Ebola affected West African nations. According to Reuters, the Canadian government on Friday confirmed that it will stop issuing visas to people from the three West African countries that have been worst affected by the Ebola epidemic. The countries that face visa restrictions are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- where a total of 5,000 have died of Ebola this year alone.

In an official document issued by the Canadian Federal Citizenship Ministry, they have clarified the reason behind taking such an extreme move.

"The introduction or spread of the disease would pose an imminent and severe risk to public health."
Note that it would not just be the citizens of these countries that would be barred from entering to Canada. In fact, the restriction also applies to people who have visited the Ebola affected countries in the past three months. So, even if you happen to be an Italian citizen aiming to visit Canada -- but have been in Sierra Leone in August, for example, you could be denied entry.

The fear of Ebola spreading into Canada comes close on the heels of the dreaded disease making inroads into the United States. Several European countries, too, have reported cases of Ebola.

Canada is the second developed nation after Australia to have declared travel restrictions for people originating from Ebola affected nations. Australia had on Tuesday announced its decision to go ahead with visa restrictions for people from these West African countries. According to a spokesperson for Chris Alexander, the Canadian minister of citizenship and immigration, the Canadian visa restrictions are less restrictive in comparison to the Australian one.

The move by Canada to impose visa restrictions is likely to put the country in loggerheads against the World Health Organization, reports CTV. In the past, WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan had criticized Australia's decision by saying that the Ebola epidemic won't stop by merely closing off borders.

The decision to restrict visas to citizens of Ebola affected countries to Canada and Australia also puts them in violation of the International Health Regulations. Both the countries are, ironically, signatories to the IHR. Under the IHR agreement, countries are not allowed to restrict trade or travel on their own and would have to follow the recommendations and restrictions that are put forth by the World Health Organization instead during Public Health Emergencies of International Concern – or PHEIC.

Ebola was declared a PHEIC by the World Health Organization on August 8.

[Image Via the Daily Kos]