Rights groups raise alarm over proposed changes to immigration rules

Иллюстративное фото: Архив Правительства ЧР

Amendments to the foreigner’s law which are being debated in the lower house of Parliament this week could significantly complicate the life of foreigners living in the Czech Republic, according to experts from non-governmental organisations and the Czech Chamber of Commerce. I spoke to Masha Volynsky of the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic, who says the changes proposed by the Interior Ministry present a very significant infringement on migrant rights:

Masha Volynsky,  photo: Daniela Vrbová
“The proposed changes say that there will be no possibility of changing the purpose of stay from work to family and it would be impossible to grant family reunification visas to people whose stay has been already cancelled in this country.

“The other significant change it would introduce is tightening up of the system of foreign workers intake. For example workers who are applying to renew their work visas might be rejected because their employer has made some minor mistakes, so the employer will be deemed unreliable but the results will impact the migrant worker.

“It would also make it more difficult for immigrants to start their own businesses here. And the last problem is a legal one. If your application for a visa has been rejected, right now you can take that decision to court and you can appeal it, but under the proposed amendments there will be no possibility of appealing decisions by the Interior Ministry.

Would it affect all foreigners equally, or mainly people from non-EU countries?

“The proposal mainly focuses on people with non-EU passports but obviously because this affects also families it might also be a problem for Czechs whose partners are from outside of the EU or EU residents who live here as well.”

Illustrative photo: Office of Czech Government
“Honestly this is somewhat befuddling to us as well. There is a certain dissonance between this proposal and the work the government has been doing in the past few months, for example with the Czech Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Industry who have been calling for an increased number of foreign workers.

“The Prime Minister has already set up certain programmes to bring in workers from Ukraine, which would make it easier for them to gain visas for them and so on. So it is strange that the Ministry of Interior at this point is proposing a tightening of certain rules, making it harder for employers to bring in foreign workers.

“One of the reasons I can think of is purely political. We are only a few months away from general elections in October and certain politicians are trying to beef up their resumes, so to speak. Migration unfortunately is a popular and badly understood topic that politicians often use in their political campaigns.”