Jarmila Balážová: Petition against foreigners is cheap, hateful and populist
The opposition "Dawn of Direct Democracy" (Úsvit) movement is launching a petition for tightening EU immigration policy. According to the head of the movement, Czech MP Tomio Okamura, the petition is being launched EU-wide and its aim is to change the relevant legislation on immigration.
Okamura told journalists earlier this week that Úsvit wants to introduce "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration and strict quotas for legal immigration. Jarmila Balážová, spokesperson for Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD), says the movement is playing a populist tune and wants to gain publicity prior to the upcoming EP elections.
"The Czech Republic does not need inadaptable foreigners or religious fanatics, they need us so they can be parasites on our system," Okamura said. The MP noted that there are millions of unemployed and otherwise socially needy people throughout Europe.
Okamura has said that he believes the state should buttress its own citizens, not nurture foreigners. The petition, called "We Don't Want Inadaptable Foreigners or Religious Fanatics In Our Country" ("Nechceme u nás nepřizpůsobivé cizince nebo náboženské fanatiky") is on Úsvit's website and the movement intends to collect signatures on it in various places around the Czech Republic.
"We reject this abuse of our compassion and our humanist traditions by organized criminals trafficking in immigrants. In the best-case scenario, immigrants take jobs away from our own citizens, and in the worst-case scenario, they abuse the European social system," the petition reads.
Balážová believes it is scandalous to speak of foreigners who work in the Czech Republic and pay taxes as "inadaptables" or as "religious fanatics". "Unfortunately, the petition by the Úsvit movement is not surprising, but that doesn't mean it's not dangerous. It is playing a cheap, hateful, populist tune, exploiting the bitterness of people who have lost their jobs. Such actions spark tensions and unrest, which we would prefer not to go through here," she said.
The Human Rights Minister's spokesperson believes such populist statements by politicians will increase in the run-up to the elections. In other EU countries the petition will be disseminated by parties associated in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) Group at the EP.
Okamura said Úsvit has been collaborating with the EFD on EU topics for some time. A proposal of his during discussion of a bill on employing foreigners sparked debated in the Czech lower house recently as well.
The MP asked that foreigners who lose their jobs in the Czech Republic not be entitled to welfare and that their family members not be entitled to it either. "If these foreigners lose their jobs and don't get new ones, it is not desirable for them to remain in the Czech Republic," he said.
MPs from several different parties said his proposal was populist and xenophobic. Okamura's statements also offended the Organization for Aid to Refugees (Organizace pro pomoc uprchlíkům - OPU).
OPU said Okamura is evidently following the model of ultra-right politicians abroad to build his political career. According to demographers, however, the Czech Republic will not be able to get by in the future without an influx of foreigners.
Society is aging and Czechs are slowly beginning to die out, with fewer people being born than are dying. In a couple of years the Czech Republic could be facing a labor shortage.
Úsvit is not the only Czech party to organize a petition related to EU topics in the run-up to the EP elections in May. The Civic Democrats (ODS) already have thousands of signatures on a petition against accelerating adoption of the common European currency in the Czech Republic.
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