Intelligence report links growth of organized crime with end of Romanian visa requirement

Protesters rally in Bucharest on January 24, 2018 against the planned changes to judiciary laws. The European Union's executive body on January 24 warned the Romanian government that its controversial judicial reform package would see the country "backtracking" from previous commitments to fight against corruption and organized crime. The Canadian Press

The government’s decision to no longer require Romanian citizens to obtain travel visas before coming to Canada has led to a “noticeable increase” in organized crime activity, according to a declassified report obtained by Global News.

A Canada Border Services Agency Intelligence Advisory, obtained under the Access to Information Act, linked the growth of Romanian organized crime directly to the Trudeau government’s halting of the visa requirement six months ago.

“The lifting of the visa requirement for Romanian nationals on December 1, 2017, has precipitated a noticeable increase of the activities of Romanian-based Organized Crime Groups (ROCs) targeting Canada,” the report said.

READ MORE: Mexico again among Canada’s top sources of refugee claims after visa requirement lifted

Canada Border Services Agency report on increased Romanian organized crime since Canada lifted the visa requirement on Romanian citizens. CBSA

Officials have already acknowledged that refugee claims by Romanian citizens have jumped since the government ended the visa requirement. In 2017, only nine Romanian refugee claims were successful. Since the new policy went into effect late last year, there have been more than 1,000 asylum claims.

Story continues below advertisement

But the report said it had also fueled organized crime.

“While a significant increase in the number of refugee claims by Romanian nationals has followed the lifting of the visa requirement for Romanian nationals, another tangible result has been a noticeable increase in the instances of members or associates of ROGs entering or attempting to enter Canada,” it said.

The February 2018 report, by the CBSA’s Intelligence Operations and Analysis Division, noted that Air Canada had announced plans to begin direct flights from Bucharest to Toronto and Montreal between June and October 2018.

WATCH: Trudeau said Ottawa is working with Romania to crack down on organized crime groups targeting Canada

Click to play video: 'Conservatives ask Prime Minister if Romanian visa requirement will be reinstated'
Conservatives ask Prime Minister if Romanian visa requirement will be reinstated

Asked by the Conservatives about the Global News report during Question Period on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government was “very much engaged exactly on this issue.”

Story continues below advertisement

“We continue to work with the Romanian government to ensure that our system works. We’re in discussions with them right now to look at ways of ensuring that organized crime and others are not using and abusing Canada’s immigration system,” Trudeau said in response to a question from Conservative Immigration critic Michelle Rempel.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it was monitoring the situation and had introduced new entry requirements for Romanians. On June 5, the government announced that Romanian citizens who did not have electronic passports (which contain a chip used to verify the traveler’s identity) would have to obtain visas.

READ MORE: Irregular border crossings drop, while Romanian asylum claims soar

The visa requirement had been an irritant for the government of Romania, which called it a form of discrimination and hinted the country might withhold support for the Canada-European free trade agreement unless Ottawa ended it.

Rempel said she was concerned the Canadian government had halted the visa requirement without any strategy for dealing with the problems that prompted the previous government to put it in place.

She said the visa requirement was imposed not only because of a spike in refugee claims but also due to concerns about organized crime and its impact on public safety.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m particularly concerned about sex trafficking in this context,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday June 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

When the visa lift was announced in October 2016, the government said it was reserving the right to reimpose it “should irregular migration trends increase significantly” from Romania.

At a sitting of the immigration committee on May 31, a senior immigration official, Paul MacKinnon, would not disclose what it would take for Canada to once again require Romanians to obtain travel visas.

“There is a threshold in place, but out of respect for the relationship with Romania, the government is not releasing that threshold publicly,” he said.

Sponsored content