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Czech Republic: Group of 16 Christian refugees wants to go back to Iraq

23.4.2016 9:14
The asylum-seeker reception center in the village of Zastávka u Brna, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: wikimedia.org)
The asylum-seeker reception center in the village of Zastávka u Brna, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: wikimedia.org)

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) tweeted on 20 April that the group of 16 Christian Iraqi refugees who wanted to leave the Czech Republic for Germany last week has asked to be returned to Iraq. Chovanec said the ministry would be negotiating with the Generation 21 Foundation, which brought the foreign nationals to the Czech Republic this year, as to whether it could cover the costs of their travel.

The group of refugees was arrested police not far from the German border as they attempted to travel to that country. The foreign nationals subsequently requested asylum in the Czech Republic a second time and were transferred to a facility in the village of Zastávka u Brna.

Chovanec told Czech Television he does not know why the Iraqis have made this decision. "They probably realized that the opportunity to travel to other countries is very restricted. They would now undergo a standard asylum proceedings in the Czech Republic and wait to hear whether they would be granted international protection once more. They decided that they will not take advantage of this but will return home," the minister said.

Chovanec said the state would arrange for the cheapest possible air transport to Iraq because it will be bearing the costs. "I would really like to rebuke Generation 21 into paying for their return, because the state did not cause this problem," the minister said.

The foundation says it does not know the reasons for the Iraqi Christians' decision to return to their homeland and has no more information about it. Jan Talafant, the director, told the Czech News Agency that any eventual covering of the travel costs would depend on the circumstances and situation of the Iraqis' departure.

"It is not the primary interest of our organization to send people back. Even if that country is safe today, it may not be tomorrow," Talafant said.

Generation 21 believes the fairest thing would be if the group would pay for their return themselves. The refugees retrieved their passports from the Interior Ministry last week and requested that their status as asylum seekers be revoked.

Their passports were returned to them and they were ordered to leave the EU within three days, but instead they chartered a minibus and headed to Germany. According to the Interior Ministry, the Iraqis had been informed that they were not permitted to illegally cross the border of another EU state.

Czech Police stopped them about eight kilometers away from the German border. The group, which includes children, spent the night at a hotel in the center of Ústí nad Labem.

They were then taken by police to a facility in the village of Zastávka u Brna. Staff at that facility would not provide the Czech News Agency with any information and said only the Interior Ministry was authorized to do so.

Generation 21 has so far brought 89 Christian refugees to the Czech Republic. At the beginning of April another group of 25 of their refugees left the Okrouhlík center near Jihlava and traveled into Germany.

The German authorities now want to return 20 of those people to the Czech Republic. A five-member family will not be returned, however, because the father has been granted asylum in Germany.

Chovanec told Czech Television on 20 April that his ministry has confirmed it is prepared to take back the other 20 refugees. "For three or four days now we have had no information from the German side about when that handover should happen," Chovanec said.

The German Interior Ministry told the Czech News Agency on 20 April that it has no new information to provide about the case. A week ago another eight-member Iraqi family who had been living in Brno, Czech Republic after being brought there by Generation 21 flew back to their homeland because they were homesick.

Relatives of that family financed their travel. Generation 21 says it wants to continue to care for the remaining 40 refugees it has brought here who are living Prague and in Soběšovice (Frýdek-Místek district) at least during the entire first year of their stay in the Czech Republic.

Talafant says no problems have arisen in those groups. Two weeks ago the Czech Government abolished the program for resettling Iraqi Christians, thanks to which 153 people were to have found a new home in the Czech Republic through Generation 21.

The Government made its decision just a couple of days before another nine refugees were scheduled to arrive to the Czech Republic whose tickets had already been already purchased and who had already sold their property in advance of the move. Both families then received USD 500 from a partner foundation in Iraq as compensation for the damage caused by the last-minute cancellation of their resettlement, according to Generation 21.

brf, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Christians, Immigration, Iraq, Police, refugee



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