OPU Report on the State of Migration in the Czech Republic and Proposed Solutions (November 2013)
Czech migration policy is simply not working and is dominated by xenophobia, lack of transparency and unprofessionalism. Instead of trying to achieve the most effective system for all, i.e. the host society benefits from legal work or business done by people with foreign experience and contacts, migrants´ countries of origin benefit from remittances sent by migrants to their families back home and migrants themselves benefit from descent and peaceful life in the Czech Republic, the policy of the Czech Ministry of the Interior created a system of state-sponsored exploitation particularly beneficial to the private health insurance companies and various intermediaries - at the expense of the state and at the expense of migrants themselves.
On the access to the territory, an electronic registration system for visa applications (Visapoint) has been introduced. However, Visapoint is basically inaccessible to basic users as it is often impossible to register. On the other hand, the Visapoint can be overcome by intermediaries offering registration for high fees. The compulsory registration via Visapoint not only for visa but also for several types of residence permits lead the Czech Ombudsman to turn with a complaint to the European Commission.
Foreign nationals, already residing in the territory, experience discrimination which is tolerated and often even created by the state. Such atmosphere forms an ideal environment for unscrupulous “entrepreneurs”, tabloid news stories about foreigners’ criminality and other restrictions. The restrictions in issuing work permits, introduced by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, pushed foreign nationals into illegality or irregular business where the Ministry of Interior attempts to find reasons to expel foreigners from the country. The compulsory validation of education for all foreign employees, or an absurd ban on business trips for foreign nationals without having a basis in the law, cause problems to all big companies which complain about raising bureaucratic burden for their activities in the Czech Republic.
The inability of the Ministry of Interior to comply with statutory deadlines for extending residence permits is unacceptable. A simple extension of work or business residence permit which had been processed by the police within few weeks before the “reform”, now after the “reform” is being dealt with the strengthened Department of Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of Interior (managed by its director T. Haišman) even one or more years. Similarly, the asylum proceedings exceed the statutory time limits by 5 or even 20 times, leading to long-lasting and devastating stay of asylum seekers in asylum camps on the one hand, and to inappropriate state costs for their “care” on the other.
The area of health insurance is a separate issue. Here, a couple of helpful MPs, while being watched by the responsible Minister, have - via a technical law amendment - entrusted a lucrative group of 100 000 young and healthy foreign nationals with business or study visa in the hands of private health insurance companies which earn incredibly well on these foreigners at the expense of public health insurance companies.
Neither can the Ministry deal with the issue of returns. Instead of creating a flexible system allowing foreign nationals to enter the territory in times of economic boom and allowing them to leave the country with the prospect of return in times of crises, we have a senseless and rigid system where the foreigner knows that he or she will not be able to enter the Czech Republic without the help of intermediaries. Foreign nationals are also “sanctioned” for slightest problems by administrative expulsion accompanied by the ban to enter the whole EU territory for several years
The Czech Republic has also the strictest legal regulation of acquiring citizenship from all EU countries. This area is governed by arbitrary decisions of the Ministry of Interior which are often being cancelled by the judgments of the Highest Administrative Court. Foreign nationals in the Czech Republic cannot vote or be elected in no elections (parliamentary, regional or local), which is again an EU rarity. Only the EU foreign nationals residing in the Czech Republic permanently have an active and passive voting right but only in communal elections and in the elections into the European Parliament. Neither does the law allow foreign citizens to become members of the Czech political parties.
First, the Czech Republic has to abandon the policy of xenophobia, restrictions, suspicion and lustration of every foreign national who lives here. Even the strictest guardians of state security at the asylum department of the Ministry of Interior have to understand that migration cannot be stopped, it only can be goodly or badly managed, and that all foreign nationals living here on a long-term basis will simply not go home and they will become our fellow citizens.
The standards of administrative procedure have to be applied to a maximum extend without hundreds of disadvantages specifically for foreign nationals. The procedures of residency extension, granting of permanent residence permit and citizenship should be made less bureaucratic, fast-tracked and standardized. There is no reason to have two years long administrative proceedings on whether a foreign national/businessman can or cannot continue his work or business, on whether he can or cannot obtain permanent residence permit, and whether after 10 years of constantly residing in the Czech Republic a foreign national should obtain the citizenship. The whole system could be much more effective, less bureaucratic for companies and foreign nationals and modern. We have a unique advantage because the Czech Republic attracts people from culturally and language closed countries (Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus and so on). The system must be more flexible so the foreign nationals could come easily when there is work for them and leave easily in times of crisis. The role of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is key to the entire setting of the migration policy – foreign nationals come here mainly for work and their integration is more successful in the environment of legal employment. Equal and non-discriminatory conditions in employment for already accepted foreign nationals are the basis for their “non-dumped” position on the labour market. It is absolutely necessary to fight all attempts to bypass labour law relations in form of supply contracts where a company benefits from exploiting foreign nationals because of their disadvantaged conditions.
The new Aliens Act cannot have 600 paragraphs and 350 pages - it just swells bureaucracy and gives more power to the Ministry of Interior and intelligence services. Similarly as in most EU member states, at least foreign nationals with permanent residence permit should have the possibility to participate in communal elections and enter political parties.
JUDr. Martin Rozumek
Director of the Organization for Aid to Refugees and Chairmen of the Committee for the Rights of Foreign Nationals under the Government Council for Human Rights
The text was written as a part of the project “Foreign
workers in the Labour Market“, which is carried out by the Association for
Integration and Migration (SIMI) in cooperation with the Organization for Aid
to Refugees (OPU) and Multicultural center Prague. International partners of
the project are Caritasverband für die Diezöse Osnabrück from Germany and Anti
- Slavery International from Great Britain.
 This applies to first five years of their residence, and then foreign nationals can apply for permanent residence permit and fall into the public health insurance scheme.
 Compare the campaign for public health insurance for foreign nationals lead by Consortium (of 16 NGO) of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic and Nesehnutí: http://www.konsorcium-nno.cz/zdravotni-pojisteni-migrantu.html
Martin Rozumek is a lawyer and the director of the Organisation for Aid to Refugees (Organizace pro pomoc uprchlíkům – OPU).