Refugees with time-limited subsidiary protection face uncertain prospects

Around 2,000 foreigners living in the Czech Republic today are here after receiving asylum status or time-limited subsidiary protection. Life for the latter is not easy – the changing situation in their home country could see them sent back home, even though they fear to return.

Twenty-three year old Mohamed is a refugee from Iraq. He fled the country in 2015 at the age of 17, after his two younger brothers disappeared without a trace.

He got to the Czech Republic via the so-called Balkans route and spent six months in a detention facility before applying for subsidiary protection in this country.

He now speaks good Czech and is at home in Central Bohemia where he works in a fast food outlet. However the last few years have not been easy. The subsidiary protection granted him in 2016 was time-limited and two years later when he applied for an extension, he received a negative response.  Desperate to remain, he appealed the decision in court, and last fall the authorities granted him protection for another three years. Mohamed can now breathe easy, but soon the clouds of uncertainty looming over his future will start to gather once again.

Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

He is not alone. A total of 530 people last year applied for an extension of the subsidiary protection they received in the Czech Republic. Some were successful. But as regards requests submitted by 41 Iraqis, every second was rejected. According to Interior Ministry spokeswoman Hana Malá the security situation in Iraq has changed.

"When assessing a request for the extension of subsidiary protection, we look at whether the situation in the given country has changed. In the case of Iraq, changes have taken place in recent years, which make it possible to evaluate the individual situation of applicants depending on the region of origin and their social and religious profile."

Zuzana Pavelková, a lawyer who works for an organization providing legal aid to refugees, counters that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs still considers Iraq to be a risky country. According to her, the Czech authorities are too strict in assessing applications for subsidiary protection, and most applicants receive only limited protection for two to three years.

“It might not be such a problem, if they were strict, but at the same time fair. But we unfortunately find that even if a person meets the criteria for international protection, which are set out in the Asylum Act, they often do not receive it and have to turn to a court for help.”

Eurostat data show that in recent years the Czech Republic has had the lowest share of successful applicants for subsidiary protection across all EU countries. The Ministry of Interior says this is because the vast majority of applicants are not citizens from war-torn or highly autocratic regimes. It also argues that the statistics are shaped by the fact that many asylum seekers still use the Czech Republic as a transit country and leave for another EU state at the first opportunity. In such a case the case is closed and the request is not granted.

Last year 90 percent of applications for extended protection in the Czech Republic were rejected or terminated. The EU average is about 60 percent. The majority of those who were granted protection came from Russia, Uzbekistan, Syria and Ukraine.