Last Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014, 16:37 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Czech Republic

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Czech Republic , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc49612.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2002, the Czech Republic hosted over 6,300 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection, including 6,200 asylum seekers awaiting a decision and about 100 refugees granted asylum during the year.

Approximately 8,500 asylum seekers filed new applications, down from the 18,000 in 2001. Major source countries included Ukraine (1,700), Vietnam (900), Slovakia (800), and Moldova (700).

In 2002, the approval rate for asylum was about 2 percent. Applicants from Russia (28), Belarus (26), and Afghanistan (17) had the highest acceptance rates. About 5,100 applications were denied and of these, about 2,400 were deemed manifestly unfounded and denied under an accelerated procedure. Most of the claims denied this way came from Ukraine (1,000), Slovakia (540), Moldova (240), Vietnam (180), and China (110).

The government terminated the applications of another 6,700 asylum seekers during 2002, mainly because they failed to report for an interview. Thirteen percent of those asylum seekers who received a decision terminating the asylum procedure appealed.

In 27 asylum cases from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) rejected the asylum claims, but determined that there were obstacles for departure for these individuals. These persons were eligible to apply for a toleration visa, which will prevent their deportation.

Around 3,000 Czechs, mostly Roma, sought asylum abroad in 2002.

Asylum Procedure

The Czech Republic is a party to the UN Refugee Convention. In 2000, a refugee act came into effect that aligned Czech laws more closely with those of the member states of the European Union (EU) – the act was further amended in 2002.

The MOI's Department for Refugees is responsible for issuing first-instance decisions on asylum claims within 90 days of receipt.

Authorities deal with manifestly unfounded applications in an accelerated procedure. Claims deemed manifestly unfounded include those cases where an internal flight alternative exists or in which the applicants provide false information, file repeat applications, state economic reasons as their grounds for leaving their country, state false facts, or do not provide any facts related to the definition of refugee under the UN Refugee Convention. During 2002, the government deemed around 2,400 asylum seekers' claims to be manifestly unfounded. They had seven days to appeal to a regional court.

The Department for Refugees may refuse status to applicants who came from or transited countries deemed safe to which they can be returned. There is no official list of safe countries, but the authorities maintain an internal list as a guideline. During 2002, the MOI considered the member states of the EU and Hungary, the Slovak Republic, and Poland to be safe.

Other Forms of Protection

In addition to granting asylum under the UN Refugee Convention, the authorities may also grant status on humanitarian grounds. While these grounds are not specified in the law, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says authorities usually grant it to the elderly or people with medical problems who cannot be provided for in their countries of origin. Fear of persecution by non-state actors is also a ground for humanitarian protection.

The authorities also grant "toleration status" to individuals who cannot be returned to their countries on the basis of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, if they face a risk of torture.

In 2001, the government adopted a regulation that allowed Russian nationals fleeing the armed conflict in Chechnya to be granted temporary protection against deportation. The MOI granted eight Chechens this protection, but it expired on July 1, 2002. After it expired, the MOI allowed these persons to apply for asylum.

New Legislation

Amendments to the law passed during the year include a prohibition on reapplying for asylum for two years after a claim is denied, a provision requiring asylum seekers applying for sur place protection to terminate their previous legal residence, and a 12-month prohibition on asylum seekers working after applying for asylum. According to the government, the prohibition on work was necessary to prevent thousands of Eastern European migrants from working in the Czech Republic.

If a claimant enters or attempted to enter another country, the Czech government can terminate the claim. The authorities fine airlines that transport improperly documented persons into the country, and require them to transport the individual out of the Czech Republic, should their asylum claims be denied.

The amendments also create an accelerated airport procedure and provide for the detention of asylum seekers in the transit area of Prague-Ruzyne Airport. Asylum seekers are not permitted to leave the area during the processing of their claims, unless it exceeds 42 days. After that, the claimant is moved to one of the residential centers run by the MOI.

Finally, the appeals mechanism has changed. Claimants could seek judicial review of a negative decision from the High Court in Prague, until the end of 2002. Starting in 2003, the Regional Courts where the asylum seeker is registered will hear their appeals.

Assistance and Accommodations

New arrivals, other than those who are detained at the airport, must report to the reception center at Vyshni Lhoty, where they remain separated from other asylum seekers until their medical exam and first asylum interview. After this "quarantine period" – about 21 days – they normally move to one of the refugee centers, where they stay for the duration of the asylum procedure.

The government provides refugee center residents with food and health care. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provide legal counseling, clothing, Czech language training, and recreational activities.

In an effort to combat trafficking and sexual exploitation, authorities have created protected zones for women and children in refugee centers.

Asylum seekers may live outside the refugee centers if they can show that they have private access to food and lodging. The amended law also states that asylum seekers who live outside of state-run asylum facilities are entitled only to three months of public assistance.

Persons granted asylum receive permanent residence permits, permission to work, family reunion rights, integration assistance, such as language training, and housing for up to one year in one of ten integration centers. After five years, refugees may apply for Czech citizenship without renouncing their prior citizenship.

Restrictive Measures

The Czech Republic has implemented readmission agreements with Austria, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Slovak Republic. Although these agreements do not explicitly guarantee access to an asylum determination in these countries, UNHCR asserts that asylum seekers have adequate access to the procedure.

Roma

Discrimination towards Roma in employment, housing, and education continued during 2002. Roma were also the victims of hate crimes and violence. However, new anti-discrimination legislation was prepared during 2002, to be passed in 2003.

In 2002, there were several high profile prosecutions of neo-Nazis who attacked or murdered Roma, crimes that were punished lightly, if at all in the past. In the autumn, the government announced a far-reaching educational program for children, police officers, teachers and social workers. The government also tried to identify, train, and recruit Roma to serve in law enforcement.

The Czech government also announced plans to prevent Roma from seeking asylum in EU Countries and Norway. The government proposed to limit public assistance for Roma who sought asylum abroad and were unsuccessful. Authorities proposed to create a special police force designed to fight usury in Roma communities, since usury is one main causes of migration of the Roma community, whose members fear the revenge of those they have borrowed from and not been able to pay back. In 2002, a court sentenced three usurers for blackmail and violent extortion of money. UNCHR, with its local NGO partners, created a pilot project to help destitute Roma with interest-free loans to prevent them from borrowing money from usurers.

Although few Roma receive asylum in Western Europe, around 3,000 Roma reportedly left the Czech Republic in 2002 to seek asylum in other countries, mostly in the United Kingdom. As result, the British government instituted checks on all passengers departing the Prague Airport for the United Kingdom several times during 2002, ostensibly to prevent the departure of fraudulent asylum seekers. Despite criticism from human rights groups, the Czech government allowed the checks reportedly to avoid the introduction of a threatened visa requirement for all Czech nationals traveling to the United Kingdom.

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