Obligatory integration courses for foreigners to start next year

Photo: archive of Integration Center Prague

Under a new government plan, some foreigners who wish to stay long-term in the Czech Republic will have to undergo a compulsory integration course from next year. It should introduce participants to various aspects of Czech culture and is partly intended to prevent social isolation and security risks, including terrorism.

According to a report from the legal affairs website Česká justice, the Ministry of the Interior has drawn up a plan under which foreigners with long-term or permanent residence in the Czech Republic will be required to undergo integration courses.

Once the project passes through the comments procedure it should be implemented from next year.

The plan envisages four-hour courses that will cover such areas as Czech traditions and gender equality, Česká justice said.

Blanka Vosecká Veselá,  photo: Romana Marksová

Blanka Vosecká Veselá works for the organisation Slovo 21. It currently runs voluntary integration courses for foreigners and is in line to also provide compulsory ones in future.

“It’s for virtually all foreigners who have newly arrived in the Czech Republic and wish to stay here for a long time. They should undertake the course within a year of receiving a decision on their stay. There are some exceptions, for instance those under 15 and those over the age of 61. But it will apply to all other foreigners, except those who are here for a particular purpose, such as students.”

The courses will be paid for by those taking part, of which there should be around 25,000 annually under the Ministry of the Interior’s plans.

Lecturers will instruct visitors in nine areas, ranging from Czech traditions to how the public administration works in this country.

Photo: archive of Integration Center Prague

The courses will be conducted in Czech and interpreted into eight or nine other languages, Blanka Vosecká Veselá says, explaining that this is intended to boost participants’ orientation when it comes to dealing with red tape.

In Slovo 21’s experience of voluntary courses, many of those who attend have been most interested in how to become and remain legal in the Czech Republic.

Others need help adapting to, for instance, a health care system that may be very different from what they knew at home.

The Ministry of the Interior says the integration courses will help prevent social isolation and security risks, including terrorism

Ms. Vosecká Veselá says, however, that it will also have a very practical aspect.

“Foreigners frequently pay large amounts of money for services that they could actually get for free. Or they could sort these things out themselves, because they’re really not so complex that they need to pay somebody. There’s also a lack of knowledge regarding the existence of non-profit organisations and integration centres. That’s why the course is necessary.”

Ms. Vosecká Veselá says neither the name of the half-day course nor the cost have been decided yet.