Visa Denials Defended by Toronto Official

TORONTO, JULY 21, 2002 ( A Toronto city official defended the Canadian government’s refusal to grant thousands of visas to would-be participants in World Youth Day.

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Canada reportedly rejected 6,000 visa applications from the Third World for fear that people would immigrant illegally.

“Perhaps the problem must be put in the right context,” said Maria Augimeri, Toronto councilor for York Center and vice chair of the Council Reference Group, created by the council to play host for World Youth Day.

“The closer the date of WYD, the more people decided to attend, but the applications should have been completed before April,” she said.

“For many, it was impossible to know if they could come three months ahead of time, especially in the case of some African countries, applications arrived too late in our consulates,” Augimeri explained.

Youths from 173 countries are expected to attend World Youth Day, which starts Tuesday and ends next Sunday.

“Interest in the day is increasing,” Augimeri said. “Since it was confirmed that the Pope would be among us, the interest of public opinion has grown.”

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