“200 families ready to adopt” says initiative and calls on government to accept refugee minors stationed in Greek camps

Illustrative photo: skeeze, Pixabay / CC0

The refugee support initiative Češi pomáhaji (Czechs help) has announced it has a list of around 200 Czech families who say they are willing to accept refugees currently stationed in Greek camps. At a press conference on Thursday they called on the Czech government to create a special interdepartmental group which would put the wheels in motion. However, the government says that its conditions have not yet been met by the Greek authorities.

Illustrative photo: skeeze,  Pixabay / CC0
Since the onset of the migrant crisis in Europe in 2015, the question of whether the Czech Republic should accept child refugees from conflict areas has repeatedly entered the public debate.

Led by public concerns regarding the possibility of a migrant onslaught, many of the leading political parties made pledges to oppose the settlement of migrants across EU states according to a system of mandatory quota.

This policy was reaffirmed by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in September of last year, when, amidst growing pressure to accept 50 unaccompanied child migrants, he said that support should be provided to them through programmes in their home countries rather than in the Czech Republic.

Nevertheless, the question of whether the Czech Republic should accept at least a symbolic number of child refugees has been brought up again after Greece called on all EU interior ministers to accept a share of the unaccompanied children from its refugee camps in September.

At a press conference on Thursday, the initiative Češi pomáhaji announced that 200 families in Czechia have listed themselves as willing to take on the children. In a joint call with Doctors without Borders, the organisation for Aid to Refugees and Amnesty international, Češi pomáhaji have called on the Czech government to create an interdepartmental team that would move the plan forward.

The founder of the initiative, Jaroslav Miko, told journalists that he had been promised by both Prime Minister Babiš and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček that they would cooperate if the respective children, finances and families were secured.

Peter Pöthe, a child psychiatrist who is also a member of Češi pomáhaji says their appeal to the government is simple.

“We want them to accept children who are in terrible conditions, on the verge of serious health risks, to be brought into [specific] Czech families, which have already accepted them. That is all, basically.”

Jan Hamáček,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio
However, in a Thursday statement, Mr. Hamáček said that Greece’s recent call was only an attempt to rekindle the debate on redistributing refugees.

The interior minister told journalists that he had sent a letter to Athens last week asking for a concrete list of children and that he did not believe that Czechia would actually be receiving Syrian orphans under the age of ten.

“The typical minor from the Greek refugee camps is a boy aged 15 or more, who tends to be either a citizen of Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

Negotiations have faltered already in the past, because the Greek government has refused to send a specific list of nationalities, but Mr. Pöthe says this is not a valid point for withholding support to the minors.

“The Greeks are not a supermarket, where one can choose to only take Syrian children. These children are in terrible conditions, some of them are Syrians and some Afghans…

“This is really just an excuse for the Czech government which wants to have nothing to do with the humanitarian situation over there.”