Czech Foreign Affairs Minister tells ROMEA TV that Brexit and COVID-19 are causing problems for UK residents hoping to return
Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Tomáš Petříček gave an exclusive interview to ROMEA TV on 16 April. Because of concerns over infection by COVID-19, some Czech citizens residing in Great Britain, including Romani community members, have decided to come home to the Czech Republic.
The number of people infected in Britain is higher than it is in the Czech Republic and the situation is unstable. What awaits Czech citizens in the Czech Republic upon their return from the UK?
What are the risks and possible complications of deciding to come home? Where can people get correct, up-to-date information about the measures to combat COVID-19 and how it is spreading?
What is the situation like in the Czech Republic with the borders opening and travel resuming? The minister answered all of those questions in the interview with Richard Samko.
The minister first appealed to his fellow Czech citizens to carefully reflect about whether returning to the Czech Republic is the right decision for them at this moment. Great Britain is leaving the EU, and if a Czech citizen has not received "settled" status there by the close of this year, that person risks not being able to return to Britain after leaving.
"First I would like to warn you that Brexit is just around the corner. The transition period will end soon, which is important mainly because if our citizens who have long been residing in Britain have not yet applied for 'settled' status, there is a risk that they will not be granted that status in time and will not fulfill all the conditions. It is necessary that each person verify that he or she has everything in order. We know that many of our fellow citizens are not yet registered," the minister warned.
The Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry is attempting to aid the Czech citizens living in Great Britain. Officials are in contact with local Czech authorities and associations that citizens can contact.
Petříček also warned listeners about the numerous pieces of incorrect or inexact information about this situation that are making the rounds on social media. "We are doing our best to aid our citizens through the consulate in Manchester and the Embassy in London. We are providing all the support we can for them to deal with this process. They can also turn to many different associations for assistance. We are in contact, for example, with our school in Leeds and with people in Peterborough so that the information in those communities is correct. Many citizens get their information from social media, but here I must warn you that frequently that information is not absolutely truthful," the minister said.
If citizens need aid, they can find the necessary contact information on the ministry website. "On the web page of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, in the list of our representative offices, it is possible to find the telephone contact for the general consulate in Manchester. That is whom I would contact first and foremost if I needed settled status. The second step is to contact an association or the Czech schools in the UK," recommended the minister.
Some citizens are returning to the Czech Republic from Great Britan because they are concerned about what the future holds there. "Most citizens travel by bus or car, across the land borders. There are controls underway there by police. They are registering the citizens returning to the Czech Republic and there is a compulsory 14-day quarantine here. A problem may arise if the person does not have a place to spend that quarantine in isolation. It is necessary to contemplate whether one will have that kind of backup available here," the minister said.
At the same time, the minister warned that the bus lines arranged by commercial companies will soon stop running. People also are required to check in with their general practitioner upon arrival, and if they don't have one, to register with the local public health authorities.
The minister said that changes with regard to relaxing border controls should be enacted within the next month. The first authorizations will concern firms and residents who travel for work.
"The coronavirus came to the Czech Republic from abroad. I comprehend that opening the borders must be done in a balanced way. I believe the first steps could be taken within the next two weeks to one month, especially for people who are limited today with regard to cross-border commuting for work," the minister told ROMEA TV.
It is possible to find the exceptional cases under which Czech citizens are currently able to engage in travel on the Interior Ministry's web pages. These concern travel for family or work reasons.
"Some countries such as, for example, Poland or Slovakia have significant limitations on entering their territories and at this moment are not allowing Czech citizens onto their territory. This isn't just up to us. It's also about how we coordinate with other states. The European Union has designed a plan for how to approach opening the borders. The plan is not a legal order, it's just a recommendation," the minister said.
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