Czech NGOs fear stricter legislation will impact Ukrainian refugees
This Tuesday, June 20, marks World Refugee Day, held to honour people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes in the face of conflict and persecution. In connection with the annual day, the Czech office of the UN Refugee Agency hosted a debate in Prague addressing the current situation of Ukrainian refugees in Czechia.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Czechia has granted over 500,000 temporary protection visas to Ukrainian refugees, becoming their third most common European Union destination and the country with the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per 100 000 inhabitants.
While in the first months following the invasion, there were up to 3,000 Ukrainians arriving in Czechia on a daily basis, the influx of refugees has since slowed down considerably.
Nowadays, there are only between 1,000 and 2,000 Ukrainians arriving in Czechia per week, and unlike in the beginning, most of the people arriving in the country already have connections to the local Ukrainian community.
According to Magda Faltová, head of the Association for Integration and Migration, the biggest problem they are currently facing is the availability of financially affordable medium and long-term housing.
“The problem is obviously related to the housing crisis in Czechia, with the refugees pulling the short end of the stick, because they have fewer financial resources and fewer contacts, and they also face prejudice when it comes to accommodating foreigners.
“There are of course a lot of other things that depend on having long-term accommodation, such as finding a school for children or a stable job. So housing insecurity and the fact that they keep moving is uprooting them even further.”
Magda Faltová fears that with an amendment to Lex Ukraine, a package of laws providing the legislative framework for assisting Ukrainian war refugees in Czechia, coming into effect on July 1, the situation will get more complicated:
“The bill will impact mainly the accommodation sector, because households providing accommodation to Ukrainians will no longer receive financial support.
“I think this is the biggest problem, because people who were already staying in private housing, usually the most vulnerable groups, will now have to move to mass accommodation facilities. And that is a step back in terms of integration.”
Markéta Hronková, country director of La Strada, an international group addressing human trafficking, expects that the new legislation will also lead to more insecurity on the labour market:
“It means that the work won’t take place under standard conditions and won’t be contracted as a standard employment relationship.
“I think it will lead to people losing motivation to be employed legally and I think traffickers and exploiters will take advantage of this situation, and offer them other forms of employment, which will make those people more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.”