Opening debate on the 'regularisation' of illegal workers
The shadow economy of the Czech Republic is thought to employ hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers. They come mainly from Ukraine and Slovakia, Vietnam and Russia. On Tuesday --just as the Interior Ministry was outlining plans to close several asylum centres due to dwindling numbers of refugees-- Czech non-profit organisations issued a clarion call for the "regularisation" of illegal workers.
These are among the findings of a new comparative study by five Czech NGOs on the pros and cons of regularisation. The original intent was to draft legislation that would help establish a Czech procedure for regularisation, says study co-author Pavla Burdova-Hradecna, a lawyer for the Prague-based Counselling Centre for Refugees.
In fact, Eva Smejkalova, a representative from the labour ministry on hand for the presentation of the report on Tuesday, said the government is open to the idea of regularising illegal workers, but is concentrating on attracting skilled labourers --with legal permission to work here from the start. In the meantime, says Dr Jan Cernik of the organisation Sociopolis, the highly developed Czech shadow economy continues to grow.
"[As for a] regularisation campaign in the Czech Republic - it's the beginning of discussion here; it's a new issue for us, and the legal framework is not ready to accept foreigners here. Ukrainians are the biggest group of migrants and the 'black' labour market is highly developed here, unfortunately," Dr Cernik says.
Another report co-author, lawyer Pavel Cizinsky of the non-profit citizens' rights group Poradna, outlined in great detail scores of ad hoc measures taken throughout Europe to get irregular migrants on the tax rolls. Whether or not it chooses to go that route, he argues the Czech Republic should be prepared to do so.
"Regularisations are normal. It's not [necessarily] a positive thing, a positive aspect of European migration politics, but they are normal - and the Czech Republic now is somewhere between the states like Germany and Austria, which do not apply regularizations at all, and other Western European states which are not so [strict on definitions] of legal or illegal workers," Mr Cizinsky says.
"I think that the law can also be an instrument for achieving some political and useful social aims, some goals. And I think the Czech Republic should apply some regularisations -- because restrictions alone don't work."