Interior minister: Czechia not “less safe” because of foreigners

Vít Rakušan

Czech politicians have moved to quell anti-Ukrainian sentiment in the wake of two violent attacks against Czech women, which were reportedly committed by Ukrainian youths. President Pavel has warned against applying the principle of collective guilt and Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has assured the public that the growing number of foreigners in Czechia is not a security threat.

Last week police in Plzeň charged an 18-year-old youth with the rape and attempted murder of a 15-year-old girl. Although they did not disclose the nationality of the foreigner who committed the attack, reports on social media said he was Ukrainian. The wave of anger over the brutal attack on a teenager was further fueled by information on social media that the 16-year-old youth who had attacked and raped a woman in Prague's Hostivař that same week was also Ukrainian. Although the police did not confirm the nationality of either culprit, the information spread like wildfire, re-igniting hate sentiments particularly among Czech Roma who are still up in arms over recent incidents in Brno, where a Romany man died, and in Pardubice, where a Roma was injured reportedly in conflicts with Ukrainians. Some of them claim that “gangs of Ukrainian youths” are roaming the streets and threatening the safety of Czech citizens.

Czech police | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan called a press briefing on Sunday to assure the public that the security situation in the country had not worsened with the growing number of foreigners.

"Despite these attacks which we have all condemned, Czechia remains one of the safest countries in the world. The crime rate in this country is not growing with the growing number of foreigners. Compared to 2019 (the last pre-Covid year), we have recorded 5,000 fewer crimes in 2023. Over that time, the number of foreigners has grown from 6 to 11 percent of the country’s inhabitants. While in 2019 foreign nationals were responsible for 8.2 percent of the overall crimes committed, last year it was just 11.5 percent.”

Despite the documented decline in crime, there are concerns that the most recent cases could result in a wave of hate against Ukrainian refugees living in the country.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Prague issued a statement in response to the rape in Plzeň saying it was very concerned about the situation. It condemned the violence and stressed that the perpetrator must be punished for his actions in accordance with Czech law.

President Petr Pavel also went on Facebook to say that he has been disquieted by the recent violent attacks on young women, but warned against the misuse of fear for political ends. The president praised the police for apprehending the culprits so quickly and said the same rules must apply to all. He warned against applying the concept of collective guilt reminding Czechs that their own history had seen cases where this had led to tragic consequences.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said the police were fully in control of the situation and promised that the culprits would be brought to justice, regardless of nationality. He warned Czechs against spreading hate speech online in connection with recent violence saying that the police had registered nine such cases already and warning of the consequences.

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