Germany sends Christian refugees back to Czech Republic for deportation to Iraq
A group of 25 Iraqi refugees who have been living temporarily at the Okrouhlík center near Jihlava in the Czech Republic refused that country's offer of asylum and asked for their passports to be returned to them on Friday. They spent the night at a residential hotel elsewhere in Jihlava before chartering a bus on Saturday and traveling to the German town of Essen.
The group was arrested after they crossed the German border. They are scheduled to be returned to the Czech Republic on Monday.
The Czech Police intend to return them to their country of origin as quickly as possible. Kateřina Rendlová, spokesperson for the immigration police, informed the Czech News Agency of the plans Sunday.
Originally police had said the Iraqis' initial deportation order, requiring them to leave the country as of 7 April, would remain in effect after they returned to the Czech Republic. That order will now be revoked, however, based on information Czech Police officers obtained from their German colleagues.
The refugees will be returned to the Czech Republic on the basis of a so-called readmission proceeding that presumes they will end up back in their country of origin. Rendlová told the Czech News Agency today that the group was detained in Germany and their identities were checked.
The German authorities then asked the Czech authorities to take the refugees back. The Czech Police agreed, are performing the administrative tasks necessary, and will readmit the refugees to the Czech interior.
"After their asylum proceedings were concluded, they received deportation orders that still apply. Their personal freedom will not be restricted, but they are still obliged to leave the territory of the Czech Republic by 7 April," Rendlová first said on Sunday morning.
However, during the course of Sunday, the Czech Police received new information from their German colleagues and decided to reassess their procedures, which originally did not count on detaining the refugees. "Given the information that has come to light after it was extracted from this group of Iraqi citizens by the German Police, these foreign nationals will be detained after they are transferred to the territory of the Czech Republic per the law on police and will have their personal liberty restricted for a maximum of 48 hours," Rendlová later announced.
The previously-applicable deportation orders are in the process of being revoked. The foreign nationals will be taken straight to a detention facility.
Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec used online social networks to announce that he is in favor of detaining the refugees. Chovanec said the deadline in the original detention order existed to ensure the refugees would be able to arrange their return to their homeland.
"That time cannot be exploited to break the law or to travel to a different country within the Schengen area," he tweeted today. Chovanec added that he had asked police to take advantage of all legal means for returning the refugees to Iraq.
There had already been speculation in the Czech media that this particular group of refugees was not satisfied with their future prospects in the Czech Republic. Martin Frýdl, a spokesperson for the Generation 21 Foundation, which arranged for the refugees to leave Iraq, says he does not know why the group does not want to remain in the country.
The foundation has organized the relocation of a total of 89 Iraqi Christians to the Czech Republic. After the 25 left their accommodation on Friday, Chovanec announced he was temporarily suspending the relocation of Christian refugees from Iraq.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) welcomed the Interior Minister's move. The Okrouhlík center is still housing the four-member family of a pastor and a single woman, all of whom arrived in Prague on Friday.
According to Petr Janoušek of the Salvation Army, who has been aiding them with accommodation, those people are not planning any further moves. Other families involved in the Generation 21 project are living in Brno, Prague, and Soběšovice in the Moravian-Silesian Region.
Eight people living in Brno are considering returning to Iraq because the grandparents of the family miss their native land. Frýdl says there are no problems with the group living in Prague and that the people in Soběšovice are also satisfied.
Sobotka has said he anticipates that Chovanec will inform the Government about the situation and believes it is necessary to hold a dialogue with the organizers of the entire project about how serious refugees from Iraq or Lebanon actually are about living in the Czech Republic. "I think we need to know that their intentions, their will, is serious and that we won't just be functioning as a travel agency - even one that is predominantly privately funded - transporting these people into Central Europe so they can move elsewhere," the PM said previously, adding that he understands not all refugees will be able to accustom themselves to life in the Czech Republic.
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