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Ukrainians Now Have to Work Illegally Due to Lack Of State Support in Czechia

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The commencement of the holiday season witnessed the departure of many Ukrainians from the Czech Republic, resulting in lengthy queues forming at the Ukrainian border. While it remains unclear how many individuals left due to reduced support, it is evident that the situation has been a factor. To shed light on the issue, Daniel Hůle, who oversees the Debt Counselling Programme at People in Need, appeared as a guest on the Zbytečná Valka podcast hosted by Alex Švamberk.

Hůle stated that some of the refugees were visiting their parents, as many fathers at the frontlines were granted a week or two off before an anticipated new offensive. “Families are taking the opportunity to see them, especially with the summer break,” Hůle explained. However, it remains uncertain how many people have left because they no longer have a place to live in the Czech Republic. “We cannot determine who will return,” Hůle added. Unfortunately, he noted that there is “no solution” for those who have lost access to group accommodations.

The lack of available rental apartments on the market, driven by high mortgage rates, has complicated matters. The sudden termination of support for about 2,000 group accommodations by the state, coupled with changes in the situation for solidarity households, has exacerbated the issue. “The market cannot absorb another wave of people when the state has abruptly cut support and complicated the circumstances,” described Hůle.

Hůle acknowledged that the aid system needed reconfiguration, as support in the Czech Republic was relatively high compared to international standards. In many cases, refugees received more support than impoverished Czech families, and even individuals who did not require assistance were receiving it.

However, the adopted solution was flawed. “Change was necessary, but it should have been implemented differently. Unfortunately, the government chose the wrong path by drastically reducing the previously generous support to a relatively insignificant level,” lamented Hůle. The support provided to refugees is now significantly lower than that offered to impoverished Czech households, which lacks coherence. It particularly affects households with employed individuals, as they lose all state support.

Hůle expressed concerns that the situation may encourage Ukrainians to resort to illegal employment. They may prefer working underground, officially remaining unemployed to receive support. He highlighted the potential exploitation of this situation by Ukrainian criminal networks involved in brokering undeclared work.

Moreover, Hůle deemed the treatment of mothers with school-age children a significant mistake. “Considering mothers with children over the age of six as non-vulnerable is another failure that the state should rectify,” he emphasized.

To address these issues, Hůle suggested that amending the law would be the best solution. He recommended increasing the aid from CZK 3,000 to CZK 5,000 per person. This adjustment would align the housing allowances for refugees with those provided to Czech households. Hůle emphasized that this change would not be financially burdensome and could be achieved through a regulatory amendment by the government, avoiding potential complications from the opposition.

Hůle pointed out that Czech families receive CZK 12,000 to CZK 13,000 in housing and child allowances, benefits that Ukrainian refugees do not receive.

Solidarity households providing accommodations may also face confusion. They will no longer receive CZK 5,000 per person per month but cannot expect CZK 3,000 either. Hůle explained that the Ministry considers the support amount per person as a countable cost. By adding the minimum subsistence level, countable costs, and subtracting income, the result is a low benefit of a few thousand crowns or even nothing.

Although Hůle has raised the issue with the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Martin Jurecka (KDU-ČSL), he mentioned that the ministry believes they are implementing the correct approach. He emphasized that responsibility lies with the entire government, not solely the minister. Additionally, regional pressure played a significant role in ending group accommodations.

Švamberk noted that while Ukraine receives substantial support in terms of weapons, aid to refugees has been drastically reduced.

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