Praha – “I used to work 12 hours a day. By that time my agency was paying me just CZK 500 a month. After 14 days, I ran away,” recalls Gansikh, who is from Mongolia, describing the “Czech dream” that a Mongolian employment agency and its Czech branch promised him.

His story is one of many in the exhibition Czech Made? Much like David Černý’s Entropa, this could become another controversial projects that the Czechs are bringing to the EU. The project provides a raw look at the demimonde of migrant workers – a big topic as the economic crisis grows deeper.

The Multicultural Centre Prague is preparing to present this exhibition to the European parliament.

The joint work of 17 artists and migration experts will introduce nine comics and reports on worker migration in the Czech Republic. Until the end of February, the exhibition is on display in Prague, after stopping in Brno and Ostrava, it will go to Strasbourg.

Organisers: The Czech Republic is exploiting workers

The Czech Republic itself, as the country presiding over the EU, is not receiving much praise for its attitude toward migrant workers.

“Unlike the French presidency, the Czech presidency did not include migration policies among its key priorities,” notes Markéta Kadlecová, an expert on migration from the humanitarian organisation People in Need.

Although the measures recently adopted by the cabinet, based on a proposal by Interior Minister Ivan Langer can help 2,000 workers return home, Kadlecová says it is mostly directed at the Czech public. Labourers in remote countries like Mongolia and Vietnam usually do not use the offer because they worry about the impact of their return on their family, especially to debt collectors demanding the debts made before their departure.

Organisers from the Multicultural Centre Prague say the exhibition Czech Made? Should alert the European parliament to “the exploitation of foreign workers on the Czech market”.

The question is what this will do for the image of the Czech presidency. Černý’s Entropa mostly met with understanding form the European Council in Brussels. The comics in Czech Made? are exactly cheerful reading and there are few happy endings. More often than not it is about broken drams and families, scams, impenetrable institutions or forced prostitution and abuse.

Slave-driving agencies

  • Last November Brno police arrested five Mongolians and a Czech lawyer luring Mongolians to work in the EU. They confiscated CZK 2 million and false passports. The main organisers owned a Czech employment agency.
  • In May police arrested an organised group of six Czech men and one Ukrainian woman. More than 60 men of various different nationalities passed through their night clubs in Šlunkovský výběžek. They had to hand over half of their salary to their “employers”.
  • In March two Ukrainians who headed an organised group were arrested in České Budějovice. They were offering to help arrange visas and work through Ukrainian papers. Then they would force the employees to work under unacceptable conditions. The profit of the accused reached tens of millions of crowns.
  • “With the wave of lay offs, we are paying especially close attention organised crime in the sphere of migration,” Pavel Hanták, spokesman for the organised crime police unit told Aktuálně.cz.