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NGOs protest at Zeman, ministers’ comments on refugees

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Prague, Aug 5 (CTK) – An association of NGOs that help refugees in the Czech Republic protested on Friday against President Milos Zeman, Deputy PM Andrej Babis and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec’s comments and negative approach to refugees which they called dangerous and populist.

The three politicians recently mentioned risks posed by the migration wave. Zeman and Babis (ANO) agreed that the Czech Republic should not accept any migrants at all.

“We feel worried about our top politicians’ negative approach to the acceptance of refugees [including based on relocation quotas] and migrants in general. We consider it a dangerous and populist reaction to the present situation in Europe ahead of the starting campaign before the [Czech October] regional elections, which fails to take into account the facts and experience from the past that indicate that not their opinions but the opposite is true,” the Consortium of NGOs working with migrants wrote in a press release.

It challenges Babis’s recent assertion that there exists no way for refugees to integrate in Czech society.

Magda Faltova, head of the Association for Integration and Migration (SIMI), said most of the 3,600 people whom the Czech Republic granted international protection have integrated successfully.

“Babis’s words about the refugees’ integration incapability are untrue and dangerous, they further divide [Czech] society,” Faltova said.

She said Babis wants to divert attention from his ANO movement by his words.

Martin Rozumek, from the Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU), said the Czech Republic is obliged to grant asylum based on the international law, which is why it is impossible for it not to accept refugees.

The Consortium also criticised Zeman for having rejected, via his spokesman, the acceptance of refugees as it would threaten to create nourishing ground for violence.

The Consortium’s coordinator Masha Volynsky said Zeman’s approach is rude towards migrants coming from Slovakia, Ukraine and Vietnam who already live and work in the Czech Republic.

Zeman has repeatedly warned against Muslim immigrants whose religion he links to terrorism. However, he repeatedly said Ukrainians were a positive example of immigration.

The Consortium criticised Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) for toughening checks along the border with Germany. The step makes an impression as if the Czech Republic is to face an unexpected and uncontrolled wave of refugees soon, the NGOs said.

This is improbable, since the foreigners, who were detained in the Czech Republic last year, did not apply for Czech asylum either, the Consortium wrote.

Czech politicians often differ in their approach to migration.

Many criticise Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) for the government’s failure to join the lawsuit Slovakia and Hungary lodged against the EU’s mandatory refugee quotas.

The opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) and the Dawn movement have been sharply opposed to immigration.

Leaders of the government CSSD and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and of the opposition TOP 09, admit the risks posed by migration but they also mention the humanitarian aspect of the refugee crisis.

The Consortium said politicians should speak comprehensibly and try to calm down Czech society.

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