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Czech Police tell public broadcaster that of more than 5 000 Romani refugees from Ukraine who have been vetted, just 150 have Hungarian passports

12.6.2022 8:29
Romani refugees from Ukraine at the Main Train Station in Prague, Czech Republic, May 2022. (PHOTO:  Lukáš Cirok)
Romani refugees from Ukraine at the Main Train Station in Prague, Czech Republic, May 2022. (PHOTO: Lukáš Cirok)

The bubble has burst with regard to official claims that an allegedly high number of Romani refugees from Russia's war on Ukraine have dual Hungarian-Ukrainian citizenship. Although many politicians have been repeating for more than two months that "many" Romani refugees have such citizenship, according to Czech Television findings, the actual numbers so far have been absolutely marginal. 

According to police, of more than 5 000 requests for such screening, only about 150 have identified Hungarian passport holders. Less than 3 % of those examined, therefore, are dual citizens.

"To date, we have applied for a review of approximately 5 500 cases, with the result that we found about 150 people who actually have dual citizenship," Czech Police spokesperson Ondřej Moravčík told Czech Television. This has confirmed the information from nonprofit organizations and initiatives that just a very small number of these refugees are dual citizens.

Czech authorities have long kept this a secret

The authorities have refused to provide journalists this information for several weeks. News server Romea.cz tried to find out how many refugees from Ukraine this problem concerns at the beginning of May. 

The Interior Ministry referred us to the Aliens Police, which stated that it is not entitled to issue such data and referred Romea.cz back to the Interior Ministry, namely, the Asylum and Migration Policy Department. "Once again, I have verified who is entitled to publish the data you require and I have actually confirmed that it is the Asylum and Migration Policy Department of the Interior Ministry," Aliens Police spokesperson Renata Grecmanová told Romea.cz at the beginning of May.

Czech politicians constantly repeat claims of "many" Romani refugees from Ukraine with Hungarian passports

One of the first pieces of misinformation about the allegedly large number of Romani refugees with Hungarian passports came from the Regional Governor of South Moravia, Jan Grolich, who even claimed  the Roma were coming from Hungary instead of from Ukraine. Later, the Moravian-Silesian Regional Governor Ivo Vondrák (ANO) added his false accusations that Romani refugees were committing theft, while Mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib justified the different approach taken toward Romani refugees by alleging they held Hungarian citizenship.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has repeatedly mentioned the claim that an allegedly large number of Romani refugees from Ukraine hold a Hungarian passport. For example, at a press conference on 10 May, he said Romani refugees from Ukraine "often" have dual citizenship and are therefore not entitled to aid as refugees in the Czech Republic if they are citizens of Hungary.

Hungarian passports as a source of conflicts

Since the beginning of 2011, Hungary has enabled anybody living anywhere who can prove direct Hungarian ancestry and who has at least a basic knowledge of the Hungarian language to obtain citizenship. As of 2017, Hungary had issued a million such passports. 

Such citizenship was mostly acquired by inhabitants of countries neighboring Hungary, i.e., Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán distributed these passports for a reason that is simple. 

Creating new voters for the Hungarian electorate was the PM's motivation. At the same time, this step caused tensions between Hungary and its neighbors. 

Slovakia, for example, responded by adopting the norm that citizens who acquire a second citizenship will lose their Slovak citizenship. Conflicts due to passports also arose between Hungary and Ukraine. 

In October 2018, Ukraine expelled the Hungarian consul due to the distribution of Hungarian passports to its nationals. Passports in Ukraine were distributed mainly in the city of Berehovo (Beregszasz), which ethnic Hungarians in the Transcarpathian Region consider to be their center. 

There are about 150 000 ethnic Hungarians in that region. Their leaders complain of discrimination against their culture and language by the Ukrainian authorities and, of course, Orbán's passport policy added fuel to the fire.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Discrimination, Hungary, Racism, refugee



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