Czechs declare “state of emergency for Ukrainian war refugees”

Ukrainian refugees

The Czech government is further intensifying its efforts to aid Ukraine. Systems are being put in place to help the Ukrainian refugees entering the country every day and ministers say a state of emergency from Friday will accelerate the process of welcoming thousands of new arrivals.

A new clip released this week features actor Zdeněk Svěrák and combines clips from his Oscar-winning film Kolya and footage of Ukrainian refugees today.

The Czech Interior Ministry spot ends with the words “Open your doors to our Ukrainians” and the address of a government website entitled Our Ukrainians; it shows Czechs how best to help as well as offering practical assistance to Ukrainian arrivals.

This endeavour is just one plank of the Czech government’s broad response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The minister of the interior, Vít Rakušan, spoke to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening.

Vít Rakušan | Photo: Office of Czech Government

“At the present time we are in a situation in which up to 5,000 people are entering the Czech Republic every day.

"At present 20,000 to 30,000 people have already arrived and are here in the Czech Republic.

"They are registering, they are passing through our checkpoints.”

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that in order to make it easier for the Czech authorities to take in refugees a state of emergency was being put in place from Friday. It will be for 30 days but could later be extended by MPs.

“We are declaring a state of emergency so that we are capable of handling the influx of refugees from war-ravaged Ukraine. It does not affect Czech citizens.

"It will have a totally different impact than the one declared during the Covid period.

"In short, we are declaring a state of emergency for Ukrainian war refugees and those providing them with immediate assistance, not for citizens of the Czech Republic.”

Minister Rakušan explained that the power to grant visas was being transferred from the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy to the Migration Police, greatly shortening waiting times for incoming refugees.

“Our aim is to make the process as simple as possible for them.

"They arrive exhausted after a long journey. They are often mothers with children or old people.

"And every 15 or 20 minutes that we shorten their waiting time is worth it.”

The minister said all Ukrainians entering the country received an SMS with useful information – and also referred to the assistance centres opening in all regions.

“We’re setting up 14 centres. Thank God for that – we won’t need to bring all the Ukrainians to the centre in Vyšní Lhoty but can send them to more dignified places around the whole country.

"The state of emergency will also allow regional governors to offer the accommodation at their disposal.

"Often that is far nicer accommodation than central agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior, possess.”

Among many, many other measures, the government also wants to allow Ukrainians free access to the Czech labour market without a work permit. Legislation to that end should be approved in a fast-track process.

This Ministry of the Interior spot features actor Zdeněk Svěrák combines clips from his Oscar-winning film Kolya and footage of Ukrainian refugees today.