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July 6, 2022



Aid to refugees from Ukraine will no longer be offered at Czech capital's main train station by close of this month, about 500 Romani refugees continue to sleep there

19.5.2022 5:53
Romani woman and child at the main train station in Prague, Czech Republic, 2022. (PHOTO: Luka Cirok)
Romani woman and child at the main train station in Prague, Czech Republic, 2022. (PHOTO: Luka Cirok)

At the end of May, the aid being provided to refugees from Ukraine by volunteers at the main train station in Prague, Czech Republic, will end. An official station has to be set up there where they will immediately receive information.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (Mayors and Independents - STAN) informed reporters of the decision after yesterday's cabinet meeting. Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) announced the close of May deadline to the public on Wednesday, and the minister said he considers it the right decision.

Prague City Hall will keep its assistance center for Ukrainian refugees in the Vysočany neighborhood open until the end of May as well. Aid provided by volunteers will end at the main railway station, where several hundred mainly Romani refugees from Ukraine have been living even after the opening of a "tent city" for some in the Troja quarter.

"The situation at the main train station has been unsustainable for a long time and is not improving, rather the opposite. The number of refugees there is still increasing, there are no follow-up services, and there is not enough room for us at the station," Jan Škop, administrator of the Facebook group called the Main Train Station Initiative (Iniciativa Hlavák) has posted there.

"Last night more than 300 people slept in the corridors and we had a total of more than 500 refugees there again. What will become of these refugees?"Škop posted.

"Prague is pushing the Governors of other regions to undertake their fair redistribution throughout the country. They are also trying to find space for another tent city like the one in Troja," Škop posted.  

"Some refugees are returning to Ukraine, some are likely to become homeless. As an Initiative we will be issuing a statement summarizing the entire situation and outlining our future strategy,," the administrator posted.

"On Friday there will be a meeting of the different stakeholders from the main railway station where we will also be addressing the future of the station itself," he added. Once aid at the main train station has closed down, the Interior Minister says it is necessary to set up a station representing the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy, firefighters and police there.

That station will give information to refugees about whether they are entitled to temporary protection or not because, for example, they are also citizens of Hungary. In such cases, the Department of Asylum and Migration Policy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, will ensure such persons return to that country.

Refugees who at any given time are in some stage of the vetting process will need to be provided with accommodation beyond the main train station itself. The Interior Minister considers it ideal for such housing to be in an actual building, but in the worst-case scenario, the situation will have to be dealt with by erecting another "tent city".

By the end of May, however, the entire problem is supposed to be solved systemically. The ministry is also negotiating with its partners abroad and doing its best to prevent the arrival of people who are not entitled to aid as refugees in the Czech Republic.

It has reportedly been agreed with the Hungarian side that they will shorten the turnaround time for vetting new arrivals to the Czech Republic for Hungarian citizenship. According to the Czech Interior Minister, his Ukrainian counterpart has agreed to especially inspect travellers heading to the Czech Republic from the Transcarpathian Region.

Last week, the Mayor of Prague said that if the Government does not create a system for redistributing refugees from Ukraine into the regions, he would have to close the assistance center in the Vysočany quarter. Yesterday the mayor announced that closure will not happen until at least the end of May.

Today the Interior Minister is reportedly planning to continue negotiating with Regional Governors on redistributing refugees from Ukraine. On Tuesday, he reportedly floated opportunities for motivating refugees from Ukraine to relocate within the Czech Republic to the Regional Governors, but the negotiations are not over.

The Interior Minister said he wants to close the debate on this subject by the end of May. Outside contractors, according to him, are drafting a motivation system based on the one adopted by Germany in response to the migration crisis in 2015.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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