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December 5, 2019
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Czech lower house will not discuss accepting unaccompanied minor refugees - ANO, Communists, SocDems and ultra-nationalists opposed it

1.12.2019 10:12
Refugees in front of the fence on the Greece-Macedonia border, 2016. (Photo: Monika Kalinowska, pic.twitter.com/dvL96my3EO)
Refugees in front of the fence on the Greece-Macedonia border, 2016. (Photo: Monika Kalinowska, pic.twitter.com/dvL96my3EO)

The Czech Chamber of Deputies will not discuss the possible reception of unaccompanied minors currently in Greek refugee camps. The effort to add the issue to the current agenda in the lower house by MPs from the opposition Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), Mayors and Independents (STAN), and TOP 09 parties has been rejected.

The lower house debate featured a dispute between Christian Democratic MPs and those with the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement in particular. The chair of that movement, Czech MP Tomio Okamura, claimed that while KDU-ČSL, STAN and TOP 09 want to aid foreign children, the SPD wants to give assistance to the 2 600 children in the Czech Republic who are homeless, according to Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry data.

"We can see what values the SPD movement is based on," responded Christian Democrat chair Marek Výborný. "It has nothing in common with the values of the Czech Republic and the European Union."

The leader of the Christian Democratic MPs in the lower house, Jan Bartošek, said the SPD is "playing on people's fears" with respect to the issue. The proposal to discuss receiving unaccompanied minors was made by the three smaller opposition parties with the support of the Pirates, most of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) lawmakers, and a handful of MPs from the governing Association of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) and Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD).

Of the 186 MPs present for the vote, 65 voted in favor, 28 voted against and the rest abstained. Greece had asked the Czech Republic in September to accept 40 unaccompanied minors from its refugee camps and made a similar request to all of the EU Member States' Interior Ministers.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) responded by saying Greece was just attempting to revive debate about redistributing refugees throughout the EU and that he did not see the point in relocating what he claimed were "17-year-olds not entitled to asylum". Hamáček did not attend the 27 November lower house session where the opposition attempted to add this issue to the agenda.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (also ČSSD) had said during an evening debate in Prague, however, that the Czech Republic could deal with 40 or 50 unaccompanied minors. "There is a practical aspect to this, though, because the Greek side has not clearly stated who these minors are, where they are from, what kinds of documents they have, or whether their parents might be in Germany," Petříček said.

In the Czech Foreign Minister's opinion, the Czech Republic should demonstrate solidarity with such people. "However, there are the practical aspects due to which the Interior Ministry is proceeding as it is," he added.

Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (KDU-ČSL) proposed the Czech Republic accept 50 Syrian orphans from the Greek camps last year. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said at the time that the Czech Republic would not be accepting any migrants and that aid to refugees should be delivered in their countries of origin.

The Czech PM mentioned a plan to build an orphanage in Syria itself. The weekly RESPEKT recently reported that no such plan will be implemented by the Czech Republic in Syria.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Afghanistan, Greece, Iraq, refugee, Syria, war



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