Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 5, 2002
Third World WYD visa denial not understood by pilgrims
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
When she saw the pope July 23, 26-year-old Maria Luisa Gonzaga of Ecuador cried, in part because her best friend, Lourdes Castillo, was not there to share the experience with her.
Canadian immigration officials in Ecuador denied Castillo a visa, saying she failed to prove her personal economic stability within her country.
She was only one of thousands of Latin Americans and people from other Third World countries who were barred by Canadian immigration from attending this world event.
Gonzaga's friend failed to prove her personal economic stability within Ecuador. This was the common reason for visa denial.
Notre Dame Sisters Raymonde Marcoux, Ligia Molina (from Guatemala) and Ercilia Janeth Ferrera (from Honduras) did not have a hard time getting a Canadian tourist visa.
"Our fellow sisters from Canada sponsored us. That helped us a lot in expediting the approval of our visa application," Marcoux told the WCR through an interpreter.
They were invited by their Notre Dame Sisters of Canada to attend a meeting, which meant they would not stay in Canada but go back to their mission assignments.
Henry Ouku of Kisumu, Kenya, said he was thrilled to be surrounded by other people of the same faith from all different parts of the globe, but he wished some of his friends from his homeland were there to share the event with him.
Ouku told Catholic News Service that only 100 of 500 Kenyans were granted visas by Canadian immigration officials. The others were told they did not have the necessary paperwork either proving financial stability or strong family ties to ensure their return.
Many Ugandans experienced similar difficulties.
Ugandan World Youth Day organizers said they were told by Canadian officials that "the economic and security situation in Uganda" caused many in their group to be denied visas.
Sister Marcoux said, "One of the difficulties is they have to pass through the U.S, and it's complicated and difficult."
Foreigners passing through any U.S. airport even just for an hour stop over are required to have a tourist visa or other U.S. certified pass.
Passengers have to present their visas or passes to officers waiting at the gate when the plane stops for an hour. For connecting flights a visa or other U.S. certified pass is also needed.
The WCR contacted the U.S. embassy in Toronto but could not get a response.
The sisters from Guatemala are consoled that the pope is visiting their country.
"We feel very happy, very blessed that the pope is going to visit our country. There are a lot of preparations going on now."
Youth from the Philippines had to pass an independent screening before their paperwork was submitted to Canadian immigration officials in Manila.
Those who successfully obtained visas and attended World Youth Day still did not want to take any chances.
When a photographer asked to take some of their pictures, they refused, saying they did not want to have trouble with immigration officials.