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August 16, 2022



Karel Holomek: We should approach migrants through a sober examination of the facts

4.11.2015 0:09
Karel Holomek  (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)
Karel Holomek (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

The most recent opinion I have come across in the broad, endless debate about the refugees and what to do with them comes from Roman Joch (Lidové noviny, 15 October). In his opinion piece, he has presented the horrifying vision of author Jean Raspail's novel The Camp of the Saints, in which European civilization is destroyed by hordes of refugees who take what they do not have away from those who are incapable of holding onto what is theirs because of some sort of chimerical kindness and limitless tolerance.

Absolute Apocalyse! Joch compares that situation to Orwell's 1984 (which fortunately did not come to pass for us).

Fine - it's always better to warn of potential consequences than to fall asleep with your head in the sand. The conclusion drawn by this particular group of opinions about migrants is:  The needy should be helped, but not, of course, at the cost of losing our civilization.

These people also usually add:  Let's address this migration at its source! That's correct, but then no one ever manages to describe how that should be done.

That would be a topic for a different, very extensive discussion. My ambition right now is to insert a word or two into this melée, and I proudly declare myself straight off to belong to that group of "truth-lovers" who are currently being slandered as promoters of a borderless, welcoming tolerance toward migrants.

In holding these opinions, I do not view myself as left-wing - on the contrary, I view this as a center-right opinion, bearing in mind that that is just an approximate ideological characteristic. I also do not draw much of a distinction between the migrants who are fleeing the horrors of war and those who are the so-called "economic refugees".

I consider it legitimate for members of both groups to seek a different place to lead their lives. I also do not believe these people are bringing a culture into our country that they would like to force upon us, or that they intend to change our civilization.

I am convinced that such concerns are totally extraneous to the migrants' own considerations and reasons for migrating. If they retain their religious sensibilities here, that will only be to the good.

Many people similar to them have already retained such sensibilities here who have never posed and do not pose any danger to us. They are just another minority group.

Their integration is absolutely necessary, but we can discuss with them how they envision it and how the citizens and representatives of their host country imagine it. This question will be resolved after mutual discussion, and the state must then take a stand on the characteristics of that integration that are agreed to and inexorably require that they be fulfilled.

There is no other way this will work! Anyone who is attempting to claim something else about the "truth-lovers" group that I belong to, or who attempts to claim that it is not necessary to establish borders and lines for the migrants that should not be crossed, is either talking nonsense or considers the people in our group to be idiots who can't see past their own noses.

I reject those attempts, speaking as someone who has personally known many representatives of the "truth-lovers" group and what they have said in the media for quite some time now. What they have said has been consistent and the justified nature of their messages has already been proven in many respects.

Then, of course, there is just one other reproach that I must take up, which has been expressed as follows:  "Look at our Roma! They have lived here for hundreds of years but they haven't integrated yet. Now we're supposed to take on more work and attempt to integrate other people and a whole other culture to boot?"

I must admit, with mixed feelings, that this is true. There actually is a rather massive group of Romani people here (but by no means the majority of the Romani population) who are not perfectly integrated from the perspective of everyone else - this can also be a result of opinions in society that are not tolerant enough, to say nothing of being outright hateful, as the facts and statistics show.

This group of Roma is, however, more or less passive, and unfortunately not engaged in raising themselves up, which is not necessarily completely their fault. Here we have arrived at the heart of the matter:  This is precisely about how society and the state, for many years, attempted to integrate the Roma in a completely different way, namely, against their will.

This is about how long the Czech Republic has been engaged with the EU and its criticism of the position taken by the Czech Republic toward Roma - not just that our society does not intend to accept these individuals or take corrective measures toward them, but that even our Government is incapable of accepting Roma into some of its structures. The Roma, however, have never represented a security risk to European society - on the contrary, they have contributed to clarifying how the integration of national minorities should be imagined.

That is already abundantly clear by now. So let's hope that the response to this migration, which we can consider a touchstone of European democracy and its capacity to cope with this problem, will be a beneficial, useful thing.

Europe might not manage to successfully deal with this. If, however, Europe gives up on defending principles that have been accepted here for centuries, then it will actually have lost the right to exist.    

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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