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03/12/2016

Czech Republic told it must share the migration burden

Justice & Home Affairs

Czech Republic told it must share the migration burden

Anti-immigration hysteria satire.

[Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr]

Although the Czech Republic is not a direct target of large movement of migrants from Syria and other political unstable countries, foreign politicians are telling the government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka that it should take part of the burden. EurActiv Czech Republic reports.

Armed conflicts and political instability in countries surrounding the EU have put Europe in a brand new situation. Millions of migrants will probably never come back to their homes. Countries providing protection to these people are bursting at the seams. It is expected that the pressure on EU external borders will increase.

The most critical situation is in Syria. According to EU sources, the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and the North African states) is currently about 3 million. Many are trying to reach Europe.

“All member states should feel concerned by illegal immigration within the EU, especially those which are part of the Schengen area,” Former French Minister of Justice and current MEP Rachida Dati (EPP) told EurActiv.cz.  “Because we accepted to share our borders, this has become a European issue,” she added.

The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004 and the Union’s borderless Schengen area in 2007.

Some countries, including Germany, which is now receiving the most asylum seekers among the EU countries, are calling for more solidarity within EU. Landlocked member states without external borders (excluding the international airports) are frightened because they are not prepared to accept the influx of thousands of refugees. One of the reasons could be the fact the discussion about handling these problems within Czech society has not started yet, or it is in its infancy.

Looking the other way

Although the country has positive experiences with the integration of foreigners (in 2013, the foreigners represented 4.1 % population), politicians do not pay so much attention to the current crisis. “We got the impression that we are not involved in the issue because we are not dealing with the same situation as the Italians, who see with their own eyes boats carrying migrants every day,” the Czech MEP Dita Charanzová (ALDE) explains.

“Politicians are trying to avoid these topics because they do not simply know how to tackle it,” Director of the European Values think-tank Radko Hokovský said. Current events show the situation is in the long-term unsustainable.

“Facing irregular migration in Europe requires involvement from all member states,” Rachida Dati thinks. Countries that are not currently facing major issues linked to migratory pressure could face them one day, she stresses. “By entering Schengen, we have all accepted its benefits, but we must also accept the responsibilities that come with it. It would not be fair that only a few states bear the burden of Schengen´s weakness,” Dati continues.

It could touch on the call of some EU states to accept the aformentioned Syrian refugees. Countries including the Czech Republic should take a significant number of refugees via the resettlement programme of the UNHCR. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec doubted this plan last week, when he said the country is not ready and it will not accept a binding EU quota. The Czech government prefer to help directly in the Middle East and provide financial aid and resources, he explained.

The fact, that the Czech Republic has so far not resettled Syrian refugees, is a “shame”, German green MEP Ska Keller told EurActiv. “The Czech Republic could also offer to the southern EU countries such as Italy or Malta to take some of the refugees there,” she added.

National discussion to begin

Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (EPP) is persuaded the Czech Republic should change its position. “Immigration is a global problem. If we are a part of the EU, which has the immigration among its major priorities for another three years, we must start to do something. It is not only about the quotas,” he stressed.

It seems the better times are coming these days. The migration was one of the main topics of wide roundtable discussion among stakeholders called National Convention organised by the Czech government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Its aim is to find a new way of the politics towards the EU.

The National Convention focusing on immigration prepared recommendation for the government how to deal with the problem in the future.

“If we feel as a full, equal and responsible member of the EU, and we do so, we should confess, we are involved in the problem. Not solving it could damage the foundations the EU stands on,” State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza told EurActiv.cz.

“Our priorities are to cooperate with the third countries, help refugees and protect the external borders,” Prouza said. Another long-term priority of the Czech governments is free movement in the EU. “The restriction of this freedom is unacceptable for us,” he says.

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