OTTAWA - Asylum claims from Romanians have risen substantially since the Liberal government lifted the requirement that they obtain a visa to enter Canada.

Immigration department officials say about 232 people have lodged claims since the visa requirement was lifted in December.

Only 120 Romanians claimed asylum in Canada in all of 2016.

Visa requirements for Bulgarians were lifted at the same time, but department officials told the immigration committee today that the number of asylum claims from those countries is quite low.

The policy change was linked to the successful conclusion of negotiations for the Canada's free trade agreement with the European Union last year.

The fact that some, but not all, E.U. citizens needed a visa to enter Canada had been a major irritant that threatened to hold up the deal.