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Czech NGO director: Government never consulted changes to support for refugees from Ukraine with our organization

20.5.2022 7:09
Magda Faltová, Director of the Association for Integration and Migration in the Czech Republic.
Magda Faltová, Director of the Association for Integration and Migration in the Czech Republic.

The Government has published "Lex Ukraine 2" and sent it to the lower house, and I am both angry and disappointed by what it proposes - those of us in civil society, the NGOs and the volunteers, are really doing a lot of work in the field every day, providing advice and support to the refugees who arrive from Ukraine, aiding them with finding housing and jobs, dealing with those who have special needs and so forth. We are the ones providing counseling and services to hundreds of clients, both female and male, and we have been and still are supported by dozens of volunteers, thousands of people across the entire country. 

Although we are participating in some working groups and meeting with some ministries, nobody from either of those points of interaction with the state ever consulted these measures that have been approved by the Government in "Lex Ukraine 2" with us, although we have been actively drawing attention to the problems with the first version of that law. On Wednesday the Government approved a number of measures that will further encumber the already overloaded Labor Offices, and they are also absolutely withdrawing the humanitarian benefit from people living in accommodation facilities where their meals and hygienic needs are provided free of charge. 

It is as if they believe many other needs do not exist for these people, we are completely ignoring the fact that some have to pay for medicine, or have costs to cover related to education, women need sanitary pads and tampons, children need diapers, there are the costs of credit for mobile phones, transportation, children's lunches at school, etc. I recommend the authors of the proposal try living with two children themselves in a residential hotel, where one has to share the common areas with strangers or even live in the same room with strangers, and then, while living in such arrangements, looking for work in a country where they do not speak the language. 

Measures that aid nothing are being set up and in the long run we will not save money, we will just delay many people in the process of their inclusion and independence. It should also be said that the state often does not contribute in any way to the costs of residing in accommodation where people live en masse, it does not cover those costs.

Purely privately-owned capacities for such accommodation exist here where the operation costs are covered by purely private resources. Also, according to the proposed amendments, the Labor Offices will be tasked with assessing both the awarding of the humanitarian benefits and deciding on the amount of the solidarity contribution to be paid to a household accommodating refugees according to the kind of accommodation being provided and, last but not least, they will also be assessing documents from Ukraine concerning the eligibility of those under age 26 for the purposes of health insurance.

The Government is tightening access to financial support and putting in place new obligations, but it is not opening the Czech social support system to the temporarily protected refugees - the changes and measures proposed are extensive, and while just some of them are problematic, the entire law arose completely untransparently without the possibility to comment on it and discuss it. We have been working for 30 years in the field of integrating migrants, and I believe our experience is good enough to take into account. 

The challenge that awaits us now is to support a large number of people with their inclusion into society, and that is a common challenge. We must be able to combine our experiences, expertise and strengths to succeed as a society. 

This is an opportunity to move into discussions based on listening to each other, on partnerships, and on respect, not to overlook the experiences and work of others. The Czech Republic can either become stronger through this crisis, make use of the potential of those arriving here to build a more cohesive society, or we can also do a great deal of damage to everybody. 

Magda Faltová is the director of SIMI (Association for Integration and Migration) in the Czech Republic

Magda Faltová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Government of the Czech Republic, law, pomoc, refugee



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