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Statement from the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic

Statement from the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic
The Heads of Government of the the Visegrad Group countries (V4) adopted a joint statement at the beginning of September regarding the refugee situation in Europe and especially on the Hungarian border and proclaimed their solidarity with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Subsequent meetings and statements thus far reflect a non-critical position of the Czech government in regards to Hungary’s migration-related practices and policies. However,some of the Hungarian authorities’ actions amount to clear violations of international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture. We thus consider any support of the Hungarian state’s unlawful behaviour utterly unacceptable and a dangerous trend contradicting the democratic foundation of the Czech Republic and other V4 countries.

We demand the Czech Government to take a strong position emphasizing the rule of law, the constitutional foundation of democratic state and international obligations. We demand the Czech government to absolutely refuse all unlawful practice and policies towards asylum seekers. We demand the Czech Government to resist all authoritarian tendencies in V4 and show a clear support for democracy.

In particular, the Consortium would like to react to the following points in the V4’s statement and subsequent declarations.

1. Refugee versus Migrant

We are surprised by the V4’s and in particular the Czech Republic’s insistence on refraining from using the term “refugees” and replacing it with “migrants”. This insistence in this critical moment only serves to erase the humanitarian urgency of the refugees’ conditions, and the governments’ direct and urgent responsibility towards them under local and international law.

Further, we are appalled by the false differentiation that our government and the EU at large is making between Syrians and other refugees. The Czech Republic and the EU have the same obligations in front of Afghans, Iraqis and others fleeing wars, forced military conscription, and volatile economic vulnerability where European states and stakeholders have had their active role, too.

2. Sadness versus Responsibility

The Ministers expressed profound sadness over the loss of lives of thousands of people in the context of the current migration situation in Europe”. It is not enough that the ministers express sadness over policies they are responsible for. In particular, it is irresponsible that the Czech Republic expresses solidarity with the actions of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who is deliberately creating a humanitarian crisis at the border by trapping tens of thousands of refugees, forcing them to return to Serbia where the Serbian government itself announced it is denying them refuge. Other EU states including Croatia continue to play a game with the refugees’ lives and pass their responsibility under international law from one state to another. This is utterly unacceptable.

3. Protecting EU borders versus humanitarian obligations

We are appalled by the Hungarian Prime Minister’s deployment of military units to deter refugees from seeking asylum, as well as by the inhumane treatment of refugees and the deliberate use of violence against them, from batons to tear gas to denial of basic food and water needs. On the other hand we stand in solidarity with Hungarian NGOs, activists, and groups in denouncing them.

Further, the Czech government has yet to explain the necessity of considering to deploy the army to handle refugees. It also has yet to explain the alleged security threat that Europe faces from refugees. We insist that refugees are not to be equated with security threats and urge our government to adopt a more sober approach and to not participate in this false and dangerous conceptualization.

4. Root causes: Military involvement

The V4 governments called for “an effective management of the root causes of migration flows”. The V4 view this management as providing aid for existing and new camps in neighboring countries (which the UNHCR has warned for several years now is facing serious shortages), as well as military support to the war in Syria and against ISIS.

We emphasize that being involved in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, alongside the Czech Republic’s past history of arms’ sales to the Syrian regime and to Iraq, make it responsible for the ensuing refugee situation. Addressing the so-called “root causes” does not absolve the government of this responsibility. The effect of armed conflict is a refugee crisis.

Finally, the Czech Republic cannot act as a passive victim to a “crisis” it is helping to maintain by refusing to assume its humanitarian responsibilities.

Contact person: Eva Dohnalovápolicy@konsorcium-nno.cz

24. 9. 15
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