Wednesday, 19 December 2018

LN: Czechia is not xenophobic, but standard European country

ČTK |
20 April 2018

Prague, April 19 (CTK) - The Czech Republic is not a xenophobic country, as it is sometimes labelled due to its refusal of the EU migrant quotas, but it is actually a standard European country in terms of diversity, Jan Machacek wrote in daily Lidove noviny (LN) on Thursday.

The fact that some 0.5 million foreigners live in the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million on the basis of permanent or temporary residence permits sometimes surprises not only people from other European countries, but also Czech intellectuals who are critical of the country's alleged negative stance on migration, Machacek writes.

Foreign reporters sometimes explain the unwillingness of Central European countries' to open its borders to the latest migrant wave by their history as the former Soviet satellites, including the Czech Republic, were isolated from one of the aspects of normal and natural development of the Western countries that were taking immigrants from all over the world and getting used to openness and possibly multiculturalism for decades.

According to this stereotypical view, post-communist countries would be "all" white and xenophobic without ethnical and cultural diversity, and this is why they are rejecting foreign elements, which is far from reality, Machacek says.

He supports his argument with statistical data.

Last year, 529,000 foreigners were registered in the Czech Republic, while a majority of them were not Slovaks, who traditionally stay and work in the Czech Republic following Czechoslovakia's split in 1993.

Out of the foreigners in the country, Slovaks make up 112,800, but there are also 118,293 Ukrainians, 60,016 Vietnamese, 36,964 Russians, 21,297 Germans, 20,708 Poles and 13,971 Bulgarians. Moreover, almost 13,000 Romanians, 10,000 Americans, some 8000 Mongolians as well as about 7000 Britons and the same number of Chinese in the Czech Republic. From this point of view, it is a completely common and average EU member state even compared to the West.

Out of the countries outside the EU, some 259,000 people have permanent or temporary residence in the Czech Republic, which is above the European average and more per capita than in France.

Besides, many foreigners have long had Czech citizenship, and this is why they are not included in these statistics, such as a young generation of the Vietnamese and Slovaks born in the Czech Republic. There are also many foreigners staying in the country illegally.

Consequently, Czechs should categorically abandon the idea of themselves as selfish people, caring for their own prosperity only who fear the alien and unknown, since this is simply not true.

During the migrant wave in 2015-2016, actually only Germany, Italy, Sweden and Denmark admitted an exorbitant number of migrants, while other European countries, including the Czech Republic, provided asylum for hundreds up to thousands of people regardless of the EU quotas.

Most foreigners living in Western countries are the inhabitants of their former colonies, such as Pakistanis in Britain, Algerians in France and Indonesians in the Netherlands. Germany, for its part, has a numerous Turkish minority as the government invited Turks to the country at the request of industrial unions in the 1960s when it needed cheap labour force ("Gastarbeiter").

Even the state-planned economy in the communist Czechoslovakia needed guest foreign workers - those were the Vietnamese who settled down in the country in the 1970s and 1980s. After the collapse of the communist regime, the building boom of the 1990s required labour force from Ukraine, and the rise in the middle class provoked demand for cleaning ladies and baby-sitters, while mostly Ukrainian women took up these jobs.

When it comes to asylum seekers, in the 1990s, the Czech Republic accepted tens of thousands of refugees from Bosnia, primarily Muslims, without major problems.

However, Bosnian Muslims differed in many aspects from those coming with the latest migrant wave. They could not at the slightest be connected with fundamentalism, they were not attempting to enter the country illegally or by force and they did not show that the Czech Republic was just a "rest stop" for them on their way to Germany, Machacek writes.

He admits that the political scene in the 1990s was more cultivated and no one was shouting that "this country belongs to us." There was no Internet or Facebook, where discussions on migrations are sometimes really disgusting, either, but the same can be said about other European countries.

"The whole dispute about the quotas is absurd in Kafka's spirit, nonsensical and escalated. We cannot give in, but compared to our half a million (of foreigners), this is objectively a trifle. The other side insists on the quotas, though compared to their halves a million, this is the completely same trifle," Machacek concludes in LN.

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