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July 6, 2022



Czech state acknowledges problem with finding accommodation for Romani Ukrainian refugees, Mayor of Prague calls for all free capacities to be provided

20.4.2022 11:42
Refugees from Ukraine at a residential hotel in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic, 14 March 2022. (PHOTO: Richard Samko)
Refugees from Ukraine at a residential hotel in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic, 14 March 2022. (PHOTO: Richard Samko)

The Czech Republic has so far granted 295 616 special visas to refugees from Ukraine. According to information that was released last Thursday by Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (Mayors and Independents - STAN), there are approximately 300 000 Ukrainians in the Czech Republic who have fled the Russian invasion now.

The Czech state has acknowledged the difficulties that are happening when it comes to helping Romani refugees from Ukraine. Some are arriving in bigger groups and do not want to be separated from each other.

Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion are receiving temporary protection visas that allow them to stay in the Czech Republic for up to a year. They are being given access to public health insurance, to education, and to the labor market and are entitled to additional assistance, for example, with regard to accommodation.

Czech state acknowledges its problem with aiding refugees of Romani origin

According to Milan Majer, director of the Aliens Police in the Czech Republic, it is a problem that Romani refugees from Ukraine want to live together, and two refugee centers have been selected for them to meet this need. There are 91 Romani refugees from Ukraine in the Bělá-Jezová facility in the Mladá Boleslav district, where Majer says the capacity is actually twice that, and 231 Romani refugees from Ukraine in the Frýdek-Místek district at the Vyšná Lhota facility. 

The Aliens Police, according to their director, are also addressing the issue of whether these Romani refugees do not also hold citizenship in Hungary, for example, because if so, they are not eligible for aid of certain kinds in the Czech Republic. Since the beginning of 2011, Hungary has made it possible for anybody who has direct Hungarian ancestry and at least a basic knowledge of the Hungarian language to obtain citizenship. 

As of the year 2017, Hungary had handed out one million such passports. Eligible citizens in the countries neighboring Hungary, i.e., Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine, have obtained Hungarian citizenship. 

Non-profit organizations estimate that the number of Romani refugees from Ukraine in the Czech Republic is about 1 200. About half of them are assisted by organizations affiliated with the umbrella organization RomanoNet.

Mayor Hrib: The state must provide all available capacities

The problem with finding accommodation for Romani refugees from Ukraine was acknowledged yesterday after the crisis staff met with the leadership of Prague - Mayor Hřib did not speak directly of Romani people in his follow-up press conference, but about groups of refugees with "specific needs". "We have big groups of refugees with specific needs who do not want to be separated from each other," he said. 

"The procedure takes longer for them because there are doubts about whether or not they have dual Hungarian-Ukrainian citizenship and so forth. This is an issue that has been intensively addressed at the national level," Hřib said at the press conference.

"At the moment, we are stuck because the Refugee Facilities Administration does not have enough accommodation capacities. I would really like to call for the state to provide the Refugee Facilities Administration with all its free capacities so the administration can network them and provide them to the Regional Authorities to deal with this situation," the mayor said. 

"This is actually of the utmost importance," the mayor of the Czech capital told the press. He said he believes other capacities can be prepared in military buildings.

"We really want to avoid these people having to be in tents," Hřib said at the press conference, which was held in the building of the Regional Assistance Center for Ukraine in the Vysočany quarter of Prague, which is where the center moved before the Easter break. During Easter, several dozen Romani refugees from Ukraine were living in tents near the center in a park.

Almost 5 million people, most of them children and women, have already fled Ukraine

Most refugees, including Romani ones, are either children or women; the number of refugees from Ukraine arriving in the Czech Republic has slowed in recent weeks, but according to one scenario, that number could rise to half a million refugees in connection with the continuing Russian aggression in the south and east of Ukraine, Aliens Police director Majer told Czech senators yesterday. According to him, the Czech Republic does not have any way to find out how many refugees will return to Ukraine after the fighting stops. 

"That would be crystal ball divination," Majer told the members of the Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security. What could affect such decisions, he believes, is whether the refugees have people to return to in Ukraine or not. 

According to the EU's Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, 29 000 people have returned to Ukraine since the start of the fighting in February, Majer told the committee. He reminded them that even before the start of Russia's aggression, there were already 200 000 Ukrainian citizens in the Czech Republic. 

According to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4.86 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion there on 24 February. The Aliens Police director informed the committee that according to the most current data, that number has now risen to 4.9 million people, with most refugees heading for either the Czech Republic or neighboring Poland. 

There were 37 million people living in Ukraine before the war, not counting the Crimean peninsula that was annexed in 2014 by Russia and the territory under the control of pro-Russian separatists in the two self-proclaimed republics in the east of the country. In total, around 44 million people were living in Ukraine before 24 February, including the Russian-occupied territories.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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