EU to provide humanitarian modules for 50,000 Ukrainian refugees in Czechia

Ukrainian refugees in Czechia

With the Czech Republic facing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, the European Union has promised to provide modular humanitarian bases in order to help house the large influx of people arriving in the country. Meanwhile, regional governors are calling for a long-term plan and higher state subsidies for hoteliers in order to unlock more of the country’s recreational facilities for refugees.

Ukrainian refugees in Czechia | Photo: Vít Šimánek,  ČTK

An estimated 200,000 refugees have arrived in Czech Republic since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine less than three weeks ago, a number that is close to 2 percent of the country’s overall population. The spokeswoman for the Czech Fire Rescue Service Pavla Jakoubková said on Saturday that the country is close to reaching its maximum housing capacity for people fleeing the conflict.

In response, the government has officially asked for help from the European Union. Prime Minister Petr Fiala told CNN Prima News on Sunday that the Czech Republic had applied for 25 modular humanitarian bases which can accommodate up to 50,000 people via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This has since been approved by EU officials. The modules, including associated staff, are expected to arrive within two weeks.

Martin Kuba | Photo: Office of Czech Government

In the meantime, both the government and regional administrations are looking at options of how to secure more spaces that could serve as a preliminary refuge for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

The head of the Association of Regions, Martin Kuba said that, while in the initial days of the conflict most of the Ukrainians arriving in the country had relatives or contacts in Czechia and therefore often a place to stay, the situation has become quite different now.

“Our available housing is filling up very quickly. For example, in our region [of South Bohemia], we still have space to accommodate around 400 people in lodging houses. Then, we will have to start looking for alternative spaces such as sports halls which provide some sort of toilet and shower facilities, but lack beds or sleeping bags. We have around 1,500 spaces in facilities such as these. Once these are filled up, we will have to start considering spaces that can offer public toilets but no showers.”

Jana Černochová | Photo:  Office of Czech Government

Facing this challenge, some regional governors have been pushing the state to increase its subsidy for hoteliers and lodging facilities that take in refugees, in order to motivate more private sector hospitality providers to offer up their rooms. Sociologist Daniel Prokop has said that up to 50,000 extra places could be secured this way. Speaking on Sunday, Defence Minister Jana Černochová did not rule out the possibility of the government choosing to raise it.

The head of the Association of Regions also suggested that military facilities be converted into emergency housing for refugees. However, the defence minister ruled out this possibility on Sunday, stressing that such facilities are needed for training and housing by the army itself. Instead, the army has offered up its mobile tents, with each “tent village” capable of providing a roof over the head of 400 people and taking just 48 hours to set up.

Ukrainian refugees in Czechia | Photo: Slavomír Kubeš,  ČTK

The Association of Regions is expected to send a list of requirements for managing the refugee influx to the government. Talks thus far have revolved around three categories of refugee housing – emergency facilities for a period of 30 days, emergency housing for a three-month long period and living with Czech families. Setting up long-term housing and associated infrastructure is seen as key in weathering the possibility of a dragged-out war in Ukraine.

While it looks like the state is reaching its limits, Prime Minister Petr Fiala told CNN Prima News on Sunday that he wishes to avoid sending refugees who arrived in Czechia to other EU states. He said that Czechia will have to start considering the construction of provisional housing. Financial help in the form of EU subsidies will be an important source of help in this regard, the Czech prime minister said.