Czech Republic to take in 1,500 migrants in “one-off” gesture of solidarity

Photo: CTK

The Czech government has revealed plans to accept 1,500 migrants by the year 2017. The move represents the county’s response to a June proposal that EU countries voluntarily accept around 60,000 migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. The deal also sees EU nations, including the Czech Republic, helping to ease the strain on refugee camps in countries such as Jordan, currently housing those who have fled the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Photo: CTK
The plan revealed by the Czech government on Wednesday would see the Czech Republic accepting 400 migrants this year, 700 next year, and another 400 in 2017. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka described the policy as a one-off act of solidarity designed to represent the Czech Republic’s contribution towards dealing with the current EU-wide migrant crisis. The prime minister’s words underscore that the Czech public remains highly apprehensive about permitting such arrivals within its borders. But Christian Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek was quick to assuage such concerns, telling the press that tough vetting procedures will be in place to prevent potentially dangerous migrants from entering the country:

“We certainly have no intention of allowing in any radical Muslims, or terrorists, or any other kinds of people that might cause us problems. We don’t want such people here.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Bohuslav Sobotka also sought to underscore that every effort will be made to ensure that such migrants do not pose a threat to Czech society:

“We will have the entire security aspect of this process fully under control. That means people don’t have to worry that we will be witnessing anything that the government is unable to handle.”

Nonetheless, critical voices regarding such a policy are being heard, particularly from the Czech political right. Former President Václav Klaus told Czech Radio on Wednesday that he believed that many migrants were simply coming to the EU in search of a better life – and that this should be resisted:

“It cannot be a solution for humanity to simply run away from every place and every country where there are severe problems and to instead go somewhere else. This will not work. Issues must be addressed and solved at the locations where the crises have erupted.”

Social Democrat interior minister Milan Chovanec has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of the plans. These include finding specific locations where migrants could be relocated. Speculation on such sites includes an existing refugee facility near the north-eastern town of Frýdek-Místek. Speaking to the press, Chovanec declined to elaborate on which facilities might be selected:

Milan Chovanec,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“The government and interior ministry have come up with a list of around 10 possible locations. We will be discussing this at a cabinet meeting next week…At present, I will not be revealing the potential locations.”

Chovanec added that the sites would be prepared to ensure that sufficient infrastructure, security and other necessary requirements were fully in place. Meanwhile, PM Sobotka ruled out that any new refugee camps will be built in the Czech Republic, saying existing asylum facilities are sufficient, and can be expanded if necessary.