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Czech Republic: Christian refugees from Iraq slowly find housing and jobs

15.7.2016 14:24
A third group of Christian refugees from Iraq arrived on 19 February 2016 to Prague. Of the 41 people, 33 flew directly from the Iraqi city of Irbil and eight from Lebanon. (PHOTO:  iDNES.cz, collage:  Romea.cz)
A third group of Christian refugees from Iraq arrived on 19 February 2016 to Prague. Of the 41 people, 33 flew directly from the Iraqi city of Irbil and eight from Lebanon. (PHOTO: iDNES.cz, collage: Romea.cz)

The 40 Iraqi Christians who were brought to the Czech Republic a couple of months ago by the Generation 21 Foundation have moved into rental housing and are learning Czech. Some of the adults are also beginning to work.

Generation 21 published the information on its website yesterday. The organization is covering the costs of the refugees' stay in the Czech Republic, half of whom are living in the town of Český Těšín and half in Prague.

The foundation originally wanted to relocate a total of 153 Christians from Iraq to the Czech Republic. However, just 89 were ultimately transported here.

The Czech Government cancelled the project in April after one group of 25 Christian Iraqi refugees left the country for Germany. The German authorities have said they intend to return them.

After that, an eight-member Christian Iraqi refugee family flew back to Iraq because they were homesick, and yet another 16 Christian Iraqi refugees who came with the foundation also left the Czech Republic. The organization is therefore caring for the 40 who have remained.

There are 21 Christian Iraqi refugees now living in Prague and 19 in the Český Těšín area. In the capital, the Salvation Army is taking care of them.

That organization is assisting five families with children, one couple without children, two single women and one single man. "Everybody is already living in
apartments. They are distributed all over Prague. They are intensively learning Czech. The children are enrolled in school and will begin there in September. Some are now at summer camp, others are getting ready to go there," Petr Janoušek, a coordinator for the Salvation Army, told the Czech News Agency.

The refugees have already been granted asylum in the Czech Republic. Just one family living in Prague needs to pick up their biometric data identification cards next week and then all 40 will have been registered.

Persons granted asylum are able to seek work without having to apply for a work permit in the Czech Republic. According to Janoušek, one of the refugees living in Prague has already found a job in his field, which is information technology. The Salvation Army is seeking positions for the rest - for example, one refugee who is a doctor is now seeking official recognition of his education so he can work in the Czech Republic.

"None of them intends to go anywhere else. However, it's difficult for them here. After spending a couple of months living in safety, they become depressed. They are aware that their new situation is for the long term, maybe forever," the coordinator said.

Janoušek believes that all of those granted asylum are doing their best to integrate into the Czech Republic. Independent housing should aid them with that aim.

Apparently it was not at all easy to find the refugees apartments to lease, even though there are hundreds of properties available in the capital. Some landlords do not want any foreign nationals whatsoever as tenants.

Other landlords said it would bother them to rent to Iraqi refugees in particular, or to anybody from the Middle East. The foundation is paying the rents, but the leases are held by the refugees themselves. 

The Salvation Army is involved in the housing aspect only as a guarantor. "We don't want these people to feel bound to us. We want them to become independent," Janoušek emphasized.

Generation 21 has objected, through its website, to news reports recently published by some media outlets alleging that the foundation plans to bring more refugees to the Czech Republic. "We are not considering anything of the sort in the foreseeable future. We just told the media that if the situation were to fundamentally change at some point in the future, we do not absolutely rule out the idea of attempting something of the sort again," Generation 21 has announced.

Those working with the refugees hope the Czech Government will reassess its position and permit the arrival of those whose travel to the Czech Republic was cancelled at the last minute because the project was cancelled. "Today these people already know what they're getting into, what to anticipate. They are in contact with those already here. They have undergone a selection procedure," Janoušek said.

Nine more Christian Iraqi asylum-seekers were supposed to have come to the Czech Republic in mid-April and had already bought airline tickets, removed their children from school, and sold some of their assets. Another 55 asylum-seekers were scheduled to arrive at the end of May and beginning of June but did not.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Christians, Immigration, Iraq, refugee



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