Czech PM will not personally fund Syrian orphanage, claims he is donating to existing ones instead
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) has posted to Facebook that he no longer wants to build a center for orphans in Syria as he originally planned but instead is personally sending CZK 500 000 [EUR 20 000] to organizations there that care for children without parents. The problem, according to the PM, is not a lack of such facilities in Syria, but a lack of money for them.
Babiš posted that he hopes others will also contribute to such organizations. According to him, there are enough Christian and Muslim organizations caring for children who have lost either one parent or both in Syria.
What is missing is money to clothe the children or pay their teachers. "Because of the war the banks are not working there, so a local organization contacted us with a request for financial aid," the PM's post reads.
"I will personally send them CZK 500 000 and I hope others will join me," says the post. In April 2019, the PM posted that he had chosen a plot of land in Syria for his envisioned future center for orphans.
Building a center for roughly 50 children, including athletic fields and a school, was meant to cost roughly CZK 65 million [EUR 2.6 million]. The Cubespace company of Prague, which builds modular, prefabricated structures, was meant to implement the project.
Babiš conceived of the project as his personal, private initiative - according to him it would not be effective if organized by the authorities. In November 2019 the weekly RESPEKT reported that his plan would not be implemented.
The PM's initiative regarding such a center came in response to a previous proposal by Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) that the Czech Republic should relocate 50 Syrian orphans from Greek refugee camps to Czech territory. The initiative Češi pomáhají (Czechs Are Helping) announced at the end of November 2019 that it has compiled a list of roughly 200 families in the Czech Republic who are willing to accept child refugees from the Greek camps.
Czech Vice-PM and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) reiterated to Prima TV on 19 January 2020 that the Czech Republic will not accept child refugees from the camps in Greece. He claimed that the Czech authorities had requested a list of 40 orphans but the Greek authorities would not provide one.
Hamáček also said there is a danger that if the Czech authorities agree to receive child refugees from the camps in Greece, then Afghans or Pakistanis aged between 16 and 18 could come to the Czech Republic, which he considers a security risk. He also said he considered the issue of bringing child refugees to the Czech Republic from those Greek facilities to be closed.
The Interior Minister's attitude toward the issue of refugee reception had previously been criticized by Czechs Are Helping, which has refuted his claims by asserting that much younger children are also among the unaccompanied minors in the Greek refugee camps and that it is not possible to generally see all teenagers as dangerous. According to Doctors without Borders, last November there were as many as 5 000 unaccompanied minor refugees in Greece.
In the center on the island of Samos, which has a capacity of 650, there were 7 000 people, 300 of whom were unaccompanied minors. Of the minors in the Samos facility, just 15 % of them were 13 years old or younger.
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