TORONTO, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Canada has effectively closed its borders to Africans from the three nations grappling with Ebola by refusing to issue visas allowing them to enter the nation.
It will no longer offer visas for foreign nationals who have traveled within the past three months to countries with “widespread and persistent-intense transmission” of Ebola, officials said in a statement. All work on permanent residence applications for people from the affected countries is also being suspended.
Canada took the harsh measure because “the introduction or spread of the disease would pose an imminent and severe risk to public health,” said a government statement. The nation has yet to report a single case of the disease.
Australia early this week took a similar stance by banning travelers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The policies put the two countries at odds with the World Health Organization and drew sharp criticism.
One law expert said the move violates the International Health Regulations, which Canada helped draft after the SARS outbreak in 2003. Now it’s “allowing fear and politics drive responses to a disease threat. And we know that only ends up in a bad place,” he added.
The restrictions won’t bar Canadians in West Africa from returning, such as health-care workers, who will be allowed back. Others will also be allowed in Canada on a case-by-case basis in exceptional circumstances “where travel is essential and in Canada’s interest,” said the Citizenship and Immigration minister.