Prague, Sept 16 (CTK) – The Czech Republic would be able to accept 7,000 to 15,000 refugees now, also with the aid of firms, Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (senior government Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters yesterday.
He pointed out that the Czech Republic had provided aid for a much higher number of people from the war-stricken Balkans in the 1990s.
In reaction to Dienstbier, government parties’ leaders said the debate on the numbers of refugees is of a secondary importance.
Dienstbier said the Czech Republic should also express solidarity and offer its help to the countries that face the strongest refugee influx even without the obligatory quotas.
The Czech government has so far rejected the proposed mandatory quotas for the spread of refugee among all EU member states. It supports a stricter protection of the Schengen border.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD chairman) said he agrees that the Czech Republic would manage to accept several thousands of refugees.
However, a different issue has been debated now, he said.
“The point of controversy is not whether we will show solidarity and accept several thousands of refugees. Undoubtedly, our country would cope with the task, like during the Balkan war. However, something different is in question: whether a permanent redistribution mechanism will be created in Europe, by means of which the EC would automatically send migrants to particular countries without their governments having a chance to influence the process,” Sobotka said.
Deputy PM and ANO chairman Andrej Babis, too, said the ongoing debate does not focus on the number of refugees but on a joint European solution to the migration crisis.
Deputy PM and Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) chairman Pavel Belobradek said it is more important to focus on the causes of the migration wave [rather than to discuss refugee acceptance capacities].
“Before starting to discuss a redistribution, let’s discuss ways to make the Schengen area secure and to discourage refugees from going to Europe,” Belobradek said.
Opposition Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala said Dienstbier’s words go counter to the government’s position on the acceptance of refugees. It is not clear how many refugees the Czech Republic will actually accept, Fiala said.
“In view of the importance of the issue, I would expect the cabinet to show a united approach, not individual and contradictory statements by individual ministers,” Fiala wrote in a press release.
Earlier this summer, the Czech centre-left government approved that the country would accept 1500 refugees (1,100 from Italy and Greece and 400 from refugee camps in the Middle East) until the end of 2017.
“We will undoubtedly have to show a completely clear level of solidarity with the countries that face the biggest burden. It need not be on the basis of obligatory quotas. We are capable of providing much more than the quotas require,” Dienstbier said.
Under the quotas, proposed by the European Commission (EC), the Czech Republic should accept some 4,000 refugees.
Dienstbier said it should not be a problem for the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million. “We would manage a many times higher number of rightful asylum applicants,” he added.
Dienstbier said not only restrictions, but also a friendly face must be offered.
The Czech Republic should send its representatives to the countries with the biggest influx of migrants, they should work with them and get them acquainted with the conditions of living in the Czech Republic. If these people had information about the country, they might more want to stay there, he added.
At present, most refugees cross the Czech Republic in an effort to reach West European countries, mainly Germany. They do not view the Czech Republic as their country of destination.
Dienstbier said he is against protection being granted to Christian refugees only.
Cooperation between the state, municipalities and NGOs is necessary to secure housing and Czech language courses and integration opportunities for refugees, Dienstbier said.
He said the approach of Czechs towards the refugee issue amounts to an “incomprehensible hysteria.” It arises from ignorance as well as “the missing courage by some of those responsible” to speak about the situation and solve it, he added.
The Confederation of Industry has announced that Czech firms can now employ 5,000 refugees.
Dienstbier said the total number of refugees, including their family members, might be 7,000 to 15,000.
Dienstbier also said the demand for strengthening the protection of the Schengen outer border was no response to the situation of those fleeing their countries.
If the “Dublin rules” under which refugees are returned to the country where they entered the Schengen Area for the first time were observed, the detained refugees should be returned to the border countries, that is Italy, Greece and Hungary, he added.
It is crucial to deal with the situation in the countries that refugees are leaving over war conflicts – Syria, Iraq and Libya, but this goal may not achieved in many years, Dienstbier said.