The state must pay compensation to foreigners over its failure to issue visas in accordance with valid laws and regulations. This year only, the state paid hundreds of thousands of crowns for such mistakes and the balance has not been closed yet.
It was Czech journalists who reported on strange practices accompanying visa issuing at the consulates a year ago, particularly in Hanoi, Vietnam, and Lvov, Ukraine. However, it was the foreigners’ complaints and lawsuits that forced the state to rectification and the payment of compensation.
The Interior Ministry paid compensation to dozens of Vietnamese this year for having to wait too long for processing of their applications. “The sum that was paid out by the Ministry to our clients is estimated at CZK 200,000,” said lawyer Marek Sedlák who often represents the foreigners at Czech courts. He also handled some of the complaints filed with the Interior Ministry.
Many of those did not even get to court. The failure of the institutions was so blatant that the ministry made an agreement with the Vietnamese and paid the compensation. “We passed those compensation demands that failed at the ministry onto courts,” Sedlák said.
A lawsuit over visa suspension
Interior Ministry statistics do not include data on many Vietnamese and other foreigners have already been compensated. Neither do they know how much the Vietnamese already got. “We can confirm we dealt with dozens of such cases,” Hana Malá from the press department of the ministry told Hospodářské noviny.
The lawsuits and complaints are not directed only at the Interior Ministry that also supervises the foreign police that decides on granting or dismissing the visa. Foreigners feel damaged also by the consulates run by the Foreign Ministry. It is the consulates that are responsible for accepting the applications and their further processing. That is also where foreigners find fault.
A total of 125 Vietnamese sued the Foreign Ministry for not preventing them from filing a visa application at the embassy in Hanoi. Government decided, at the end of last year, that it will stop issuing visa for the Vietnamese and the Hanoi embassy stopped accepting their applications. “Nobody can prevent them from at least filing the application. No matter what the result will be,” Sedlák said.
Prague City Court stopped the proceedings but a number of the Vietnamese turned to the Supreme Administrative Court with a cassation complaint. “We will also file another lawsuit concerning the Foreign Ministry for compensation of my clients’ expenses for the legal representation,” Sedlák said adding that his office has already dealt with dozens of lawsuits filed by the Vietnamese for paying excessive fees for getting appointments at the embassy in Hanoi.
Number of dissatisfied applicants growing
Mass lawsuits filed by foreigners against the Czech Republic at local courts are a novelty. Judges dealing with this kind of problems confirmed they have not come across such cases before. The same is true for the Prague City Court. “A lawsuit initiated by a hundred of plaintiffs who are foreign citizens is very rare,” said Martina Lhotáková, court’s spokeswoman.
The Czech–Vietnamese association confirms the growing interest of the Vietnamese to fight against the procedures of Czech authorities in court. “We have received an increased number of phone calls asking for such help this year,” said Marcel Winter, association’s chair. “Many first generation Vietnamese immigrants studied at universities, often they studied law,” Winter said.
The Vietnamese are not alone in disputes with the Czech state. One hundred and sixty-one Ukrainians are suing the Foreign Minister for having to pay a fee to a private company when they tried to arrange an appointment for visa application by telephone. Czech TV brought this to attention two weeks ago. The anti-corruption police is looking into the matter.