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Gov’t prepares campaign to dispel Czechs’ refugee fears

in Czech News

Secretary for European affairs says lessons learned in other countries will be applied here

Prague, July 21 (ČTK) — The government is preparing a campaign to persuade Czechs that they need not be afraid of refugees, its Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza told today’s issue of daily Hospodářské noviny (HN), adding that it will focus on places where the immigrants will find a new home.

Czechs are afraid of radical Islamists, who they say might be among the refugees. According to the latest CVVM poll, more Czechs are afraid of Islamic State (72 percent) than of the developments in the relatively close Ukraine (64 percent).

Since the campaign in support of refugees will not proceed on the national level, the main role on the local level will be played by mayors and priests who will stage meetings and lectures in the municipalities where an immigrant family will move at which the newcomers will be free to tell their story to the locals, Prouza said.

“Family members will talk about their past experience, about what they are fleeing from — the cutting of throats, a war-destroyed town where there are no more houses, that a part of the family has been killed,” Prouza said.

The government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) will lead the campaign, but mayors, priests and employers will have to participate in it on the local level, Prouza said.

He said it may be an advantage that foreigners with whom the Czech Republic already has some experience are interested in moving to the country, most of them being Ukrainians and Syrians.

Last year, 1,156 people applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, which was a 63 percent increase on 2013, HN writes.

Prouza said that the Czech Republic does not want to repeat the mistakes made by France or Scandinavian countries where the immigrants lived in Muslim ghettos and were not integrated into society, which has produced a generation of disaffected sons and grandchildren.

The Czech government seeks inspiration in Austria, which manages the influx of refugees, of whom there are many times more than in the Czech Republic, Prouza said.

The church in Austria offers patronage to refugee families in Catholic villages and teaches them German. “If there are one or two families, they come under huge pressure for integration. We want to follow suit,” Prouza said.

He said the Czech government will also cooperate with churches that have offered their aid by themselves.

Some 400 immigrants from refugee camps in Jordan and Kurdistan enjoying refugee status are to be admitted to the Czech Republic where they are expected to stay, HN writes.

It writes that the 1,100 people whom the Czech Republic has pledged to admit and who are waiting in Italy and Greece will be a more complex problem.

A crushing majority of them will not be granted asylum, since they are not entitled to it. Already at present, the Czech Republic is rejecting 60 percent of applications, but the effort to return the people to where they came from succeeds in only 39 percent of cases, HN writes.

Prouza said the European Union must follow the example of Spain, which has resolved the immigration problem by radically raising development aid it sends to Africa in exchange for that the African countries concerned pledged to accept the foreigners returning from Spain.

Prouza said another campaign will focus on refuting the false promises made by the people smugglers to the refugees. The Czech government will follow the example of Germany’s defense against hordes of Kosovar Albanians.

The Germans dotted the whole country with billboards and television broadcasts shots saying “Do you want to apply for asylum in Germany? You are not entitled to it,” with which they marred the smugglers’ false promises, Prouza said.

The Czech Interior Ministry has already pledged to cut short the asylum process, because applicants are entitled to welfare benefits while the decision is pending, HN writes.

It writes that all support will be paid out to the refugees from the state budget. The Interior Ministry has already demanded an additional 234 million Kč this year and 1.1 billion Kč for next year.

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