Paternity tests possible for immigrant children
NGOs say new citizenship bill is 'discriminatory' for applicants
Posted: March 13, 2013
American Carly Guglielmeli says she and her partner believe the test would be invasive.
A new draft of the Czech citizenship law, which has gone through its first reading in the Chamber of Deputies and has two more readings before being passed on to the Senate, introduces some significant legal changes to those seeking Czech citizenship, but several of the bill's detractors criticize it for its discriminatory aspects.
According to the proposal, last updated Feb. 27, if a child is born to a Czech man and a non-Czech woman who does not have permanent residency, a paternity test must be carried out in order to grant the child Czech nationality. As the current draft of the bill offers no alternative in cases where the father cannot be found or a paternity test cannot be done, its critics say the legislation places an unfair burden on the children born of these unions.
Prior to the Feb. 27 addendum, the bill's text stated that if a Czech man had a child out of wedlock with a woman without EU citizenship, a DNA test would be required to prove the child's right to citizenship. For Carly Guglielmeli, an American living and working in Prague under a partnership visa with her long-term boyfriend, Ondra Burda, the former draft was an unsettling prospect. Though the bill's regulations were since changed to require a paternity test only if the woman lacks permanent residency here, which exempts Guglielmeli, she and her boyfriend discussed the ethical implications as the bill took shape.
"From Ondra's perspective, it would be really invasive for him," she said. "It's questioning the relationship between him and this baby. It seems kind of strange that if you have somebody who is the father and wants to be the father, you have to somehow put a legal restriction on it. His opinion is that … it would be humiliating."
Libor Kučera, a lawyer at the Counseling Center for Integration, says paternity testing is his main source of concern with the bill. He says the DNA testing aims to help the Interior Ministry prevent individuals from misusing the system in order to gain citizenship but finds it troublesome from a human rights standpoint.
"I hope DNA tests will not be passed, because it's discrimination," he said. "It's not ethical; it's not something that should be asked by the government."
The concerns over the bill are not just ethical but also financial. The administrative fee for processing one's application bears a price tag of 10,000 Kč. It can be reduced by the ministry for lack of funds but only if requested by the applicant. If DNA testing is required, the test alone stands between 6,000 and 20,000 Kč.
The bill also includes other changes and more requirements for anyone going through the already lengthy process of seeking Czech citizenship: Applicants must newly prove a legal source of income, confirm they are not dependent on social services and pass a new exam that tests not only Czech language, as in the current law, but also knowledge of the Czech Constitution and history.
However, Kučera says, the bill would also introduce some positive changes. One of the biggest is the potential for dual citizenship, highly restricted under the current legislation. The new bill, if passed, would no longer require applicants to renounce their existing citizenship. Czechs applying for foreign citizenship would also be able to retain their Czech citizenship, which under current law is not possible in many cases.
Second-generation migrants who were born in the Czech Republic or who moved there before a certain age will also be able to obtain nationality more easily, Kučera says. Those living abroad with at least one Czech grandparent would be able to obtain citizenship without proving Czech-language proficiency and without ever physically being in the country. This has been a particular point of contention for many in migration and human rights watchdog groups.
"That's what we criticize the most," says Marie Heřmanová, who represents the nonprofit organization People in Need, "this tendency to consider citizenship an ethnic concept, to prefer 'blood' rather than the real relationship to the Czech Republic, to say it simply. The second-biggest problem is the transparency of the process: some paragraphs in the new law will clearly make the whole thing even more complicated and tiring and there's space for corruption."
The process of obtaining Czech citizenship is long, complicated and fickle, and even with the new changes Kučera says he does not foresee an upsurge of applicants, as the procedure is seen as restrictive and many believe they have no chance. Heřmanová says many migrants are averse to publicly criticizing the law because they are afraid it would complicate things even more for them.
Guglielmeli is lucky; under her partnership visa, signed by Burda's family, she can legally live and work in the EU for up to five years. Under this visa, the bill would not require a paternity test for her and Burda's child, but for mothers who are not in her position, it could be a frightening prospect.
"It leaves the child incredibly vulnerable," she says. "What if I'm here legally, I get pregnant, I have a child, [and] my partner leaves me? Or refuses to take a paternity test and doesn't want to be a father? What am I supposed to do with the kid? I [would] probably need to go back to my country. Not everybody can."
Kasia Pilat can be reached at
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