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Czech NGOs say leading politicians' anti-refugee remarks are dangerous and populist

6.8.2016 19:57
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, and Czech President Miloš Zeman (Collage:  Romea.cz)
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, and Czech President Miloš Zeman (Collage: Romea.cz)

An association of NGOs aiding refugees in the Czech Republic objected yesterday to remarks made by politicians against refugees. The NGOs said the attitudes of rejection expressed by Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman, Czech Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democractic Party) against migration are dangerous and populist.

All three politicians have recently been discussing the risks of the current migration wave into Europe. Babiš and Zeman agreed that the Czech Republic should not receive any refugees.

"We are disturbed by these attitudes of rejection from the leading politicians of our country with regard to receiving refugees and toward migrants in general. We consider these attitudes a dangerous, populist response to the current situation in Europe in the run-up to the regional elections, a response that does not reflect any of the facts and past experiences that counter such views," said the Consortium of Migrant-Assisting NGOS in the Czech Republic in a press release.

The Consortium denies recent allegations by Babiš (who is of Slovak origin) that there is no way for refugees to integrate into Czech society. According to the director of the Association for Integration and Migration (Sdružení pro integraci a migraci - SIMI), Magda Faltová, most of the approximately 3 600 persons to whom the Czech Republic has granted international protection are well-integrated.

"These words from Babiš about refugees' inability to integrate are so dangerous and false, they are further dividing society," Faltová said. She considers his remarks an effort to deflect attention away from the problems with the ANO movement, which Babiš chairs.

Martin Rozumek of the Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) said the Czech Republic is obligated to provide asylum on the basis of international law. It is, therefore, impossible for the country to refuse to receive refugees on its territory.

The Consortium also objected against President Zeman, through his spokesperson, rejecting refugee reception last Tuesday because to do so would risk creating "a hotbed of violence". Masha Volynska, the coordinator of the Consortium, said such an attitude is disrespectful toward migrants from Slovakia, Ukraine and Vietnam who already live and work in the Czech Republic.

Zeman is known for his negative attitude toward immigrants and for considering Muslims dangerous because he connects their faith with terrorism. Ukrainians, on the other hand, have been repeatedly called a good example of immigration by the Czech President.

The Consortium also criticized Czech Interior Minister Chovanec for tightening controls at the border with Germany. The NGOs believe to do so creates the impression that the Czech Republic might soon face an unanticipated, uncontrollable influx of refugees.

According to the Consortium, that is improbable given that last year most of the foreign nationals detained on Czech territory never asked for international protection. In the past, leading Czech politicians have frequently disagreed during the debates about migration.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is usually a target of criticism because his Government did not join the lawsuit filed by Hungary and Slovakia against the mandatory quotas for redistributing some refugees that were adopted last year by the interior ministers of the EU Member States. The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Úsvit ("Dawn") movement have also sharply objected to migration.

Representatives of the Christian Democrats, the Czech Social Democratic Party, and the TOP 09 party mostly admit the risks of migration but do not forget the humanitarian dimension of the refugee crisis. The Consortium believes politicians should speak comprehensibly about migration in terms that will calm society. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Andrej Babiš, Migrace, Milan Chovanec, Miloš Zeman, Neziskový sektor



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