Two US citizens apply for asylum to avoid deportation

Czech authorities have detained two American citizens who overstayed the 90-day period for which no visas are required. The Americans arrived in Prague in October last year and failed to leave the country in time. After being detained by the Czech Foreigners Police in the town of Prostějov, South Moravia, with pending deportation charges, they applied for asylum in the Czech Republic.

While Czechs are hoping to be included in the US visa-waiver programme this year in order to travel freely to the United States, American citizens have been able to stay in the Czech Republic without visas for up to 90 days ever since the fall of communism in 1989. Two US nationals, reportedly residing in Prostějov, South Moravia, did not comply with the 90-day limit, and were detained in a facility for illegal aliens. Foreigners Police spokeswoman Daniela Vlčková describes what happened.

“On Thursday, February 7, Foreigners Police officers checked the identity of two foreigners in Prostějov. Both men, citizens of the United States, arrived in the Czech Republic in October last year via the Praha – Ruzyně border crossing but they did not leave the country within the three month period limiting visa-free stays. The police therefore detained both men and initiated deportation proceedings. The next day the deportation proceedings were completed: one of the Americans, 31 years old, was banned from the Czech Republic for six months while his 30-year-old companion for one year. Their questioning revealed however that that they would not respect the decision, and as a result they were detained in a facility for detention of foreigners in Poštorná.”

While in the detention centre, the two American nationals said they intended to ask for asylum in the Czech Republic. It has not been established whether they indicated they would be in any way persecuted upon their return to the United States. Vladan Brož, a lawyer at the Prague-based Counselling Centre for Refugees, says their case is unusual; he believes that their motivation is to stay in the Czech Republic at any cost.

“I can just guess that somebody counselled them, that somebody told them about this possibility. But the United States is considered a safe country so they really have no chance of being granted asylum here. As far as I know, I think they are just trying to avoid deportation”

In the first ten months of 2007, 466 foreigners applied for asylum in the Czech Republic; 233 of them were successful. But Foreigners Police spokeswoman Daniela Vlčková says that cases of American citizens seeking international protection are extremely rare in the Czech Republic.

“To be honest, I recall no such case during my time as a spokeswoman. But I asked the Interior Ministry about this, and they say that in 1991, an American citizen applied for asylum in Czechoslovakia which was denied; and in 2002, two US nationals did the same but they withdrew their applications themselves in the end.”

Before the Czech Republic joined the Schengen zone of free travel in December last year, the only thing American citizens living and working illegally in the Czech Republic had to do was to leave the country once in every three months. On their return from a day trip to Dresden, Vienna, Bratislava or Krakow, their passports were stamped anew, marking the start of another three-month period. Since December 2007 however, the closest destinations for such trips are the UK, Switzerland, and Ukraine.