Charles University opens doors to asylum seekers

Illustrative photo: Griszka Niewiadomski / freeimages

Charles University in Prague has decided to open up to migrants who are seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. Four of the university’s faculties have offered to provide free tuition and accommodation to refugees who have been granted asylum and residence permits in the country and who have passed the entrance exam. I spoke to Jan Konvalinka, Vice rector of research at Charles University, and I first asked him about the reasons behind the project:

Jan Konvalinka,  photo: archive of Charles University
“Charles University is aware of the humanitarian tragedy of immigrants seeking asylum in European countries. And in this situation, where a number of political forces are trying to misuse the situation, Charles University wants to show some positive action to help people in need. We are trying to help by what we are best in, which is education.”

Who is the project intended for? Who can take part in it?

“The project is intended for asylum seekers who have already been granted asylum in the Czech Republic and will get a residence permit, which is a lengthy process, so we don’t expect an immediate influx of applicants.

“Those who will be eligible and will pass the examinations to the university will be provided with a scholar fee for their studies at the Charles University and will be provided with accommodation at the student’s dormitories.”

How many people do you expect to take part in the programme?

“Unfortunately we are talking about very low numbers because unfortunately, and it is really bad news in this situation, there are not many people who are actually seeking asylum in this country. They are leaving, as you know, to Germany, and Sweden and other European.

“At present we are ready to help approximately ten students but the situation is very dynamic. I have just attended talks on the government level this morning, and I am sure that the government will come up with some broader initiative concerning more Czech universities. So at the end the numbers will be higher.”

Who will be covering the costs of their studies?

Illustrative photo: Griszka Niewiadomski / freeimages
“For those people that I was talking about, for those first ten, Charles University is going to waive the scholar fees so we are going to pay for it, in a way, and I am sure that the government, or the ministry of education, will provide some financial help as well.”

When exactly will you launch the project?

“The programme has already been launched, but once again, we have to wait for people to actually get the asylum and residence permit, and that will take several months.”

As far as I know, Charles University is considering other forms of help to refugees? What are they?

“We will try to educate the people, we will try to provide courses, we might, in case of emergency, offer accommodation at the dormitories of Charles University, but these things have not been decided yet, this is just a discussion that we are currently leading.”