Government approves repatriation of remainder of Czech community from Kazakhstan

Almost two hundred members of the Czech community in Kazakhstan will now be able to return to their homeland. The government this week approved a programme which will involve the repatriation of 170 Kazakhstani Czechs. As part of a similar scheme, several hundred Czechs moved back from Kazakhstan in the 1990s. The Czechs first started settling in Kazakhstan in the mid-19th century. When the current repatriation programme concludes there will be no Czechs left in Kazakhstan.

As the living conditions for the dwindling Czech community in the post-Soviet republic worsened in recent years, the Czech Interior Ministry decided to assist the remaining Czechs in Kazakhstan in moving back to the country of their ancestors. Most of their relatives have already relocated to the Czech Republic. Between the years 1994 and 2000, some 650 Czechs moved mainly from the Aktyubinsk (now Aqtobe) region and found new homes across the Czech Republic.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek says the government will now have to earmark 50 million crowns every year for the new repatriates.

"In the years to come costs will not exceed 50 million crowns a year. Even though it is a small number of people - if they are of retirement age they are entitled to a minimum rate of pension, that is 2,500 crowns a month. The government will need to compensate them so that their income meets the state-guaranteed minimum monthly income."

The government has granted the 50 families the right to permanent residence in the Czech Republic and will give subsidies to individual municipalities that will provide accommodation and other services to the newcomers. The town hall in the eastern town of Olomouc has offered to accommodate one Kazakhstani Czech family. Its spokesman is Ivan Rascak.

"In September, the town council approved a proposal that Olomouc should help one Czech family from Kazakhstan. At the moment, we are looking for suitable accommodation for them. Now that the government has formally approved the project including the subsidies, we can speed up the process and find accommodation for the family."

This is not a totally new experience for the town. As part of a similar government-organised programme, Oloumouc has provided accommodation to two families from Ukraine and Ingushetia in previous years.