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ČRo: EC asks why Prague fails to expel illegal migrants

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Prague, Oct 20 (CTK) – The European Commission (EC) wants the Czech Republic to explain why it is failing to expel illegal migrants, public Czech Radio (CRo) reported Tuesday, referring to a letter the EC addressed to Prague, but Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec dismissed the criticism.

The Czech Republic has returned only 13 percent of illegal migrants abroad, compared with the EU’s average of 39 percent, the EC wrote to the Interior Ministry earlier this month.

It asked the Interior Ministry to submit a list of measures to improve the situation in a month.

The returning of illegal migrants is crucial for reducing illegal migration, the EC wrote.

In its letter to Prague, it refers to the Eurostat figures, according to which the Czech Republic ordered 2,460 people to leave Czech territory last year, but in fact it expelled only 320 people.

Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) reacted saying the fresh figures from 2015 show that 460 of 7,000 refugees who entered the Czech Republic illegally are kept in detention now.

“I wonder what the results of the counting experts in their warm offices will be this year,” Chovanec wrote on Twitter, alluding to the EC.

At a press conference later Tuesday, President Milos Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said the figures released by Chovanec are a clear answer to the criticism from Brussels.

“The EC’s approach is rather strange, regarding the current situation in Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia,” Ovcacek said and pointed out that Croatia alone has been entered by 200,000 immigrants this year.

The Interior Ministry, too, reacted saying the EC statistics do not correspond to reality. They cover only the migrants’ return in which the police had to assists, it said.

“Nevertheless, the Czech Republic has ordered the return of many more people, who, consequently, left the Czech Republic voluntarily,” the ministry said in a press release.

It said it wants to answer the EC’s letter in the days ahead.

The Interior Ministry says a large part of those who stay illegally in the Czech Republic are people with expired residence permits.

“We have to adjust the [Eurostat] figure not to include the people with expired residence permits, which is a majority of the cases. They are Ukrainians, Libyans, Vietnamese. They are no illegal migrants. They stayed here legally but their residence permits have expired,” Deputy Interior Minister Jiri Novacek told CRo in reaction to the EC letter.

The EC, nevertheless, says too many migrants stay illegally in the Czech Republic, whatever the reasons may be.

Moreover, Prague would lag behind the EU average even if the migrants with expired visas were not included because this would raise the expulsions rate to 32 percent, according to Novacek, CRo said.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) expressed concern over the comments on migrants made by top Czech constitutional officials, without giving any names.

UNHCR European bureau head Vincent Cochetel called on Czech political leaders to show tolerance and solidarity to the refugees similar to that expressed to people who had fled from Czechoslovakia after the country’s occupation by Soviet troops in 1968.

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