A strict new foreigners’ law went into effect in August of this year despite protests from human rights organizations, NGOs working with migrants and the Czech Chamber of Commerce who all argue that it is extremely unfriendly to foreigners from non-EU member states. Now a Czech senator has decided to challenge the law in the Constitutional Court on the argument that it violates the country’s international commitments as well as its own constitution.
The amendment to the foreigners’ law which went into force in August started out as a government effort to bring Czech legislation in line with EU norms, however changes made to the draft in the lower house shifted the bill in another direction. Senator Václav Láska, who is preparing a legal complaint against it, says the law treats foreigners from outside the EU as second-class citizens.
“Foreigners from non-EU states should be warned that the Czech authorities will not make it easy for them to get any kind of residence here, be it temporary or permanent, that even the smallest mistake in the form they fill in, or step they take, such as entering the country, will disqualify them from being considered for residence. Foreigners should be warned that when they are invited to the foreigners’ police the reception they get will not be friendly.”
Senator Láska argues that the law, which proponents claim is in the interest of national security, does not impact migrants so much as foreigners studying and working in the Czech Republic. Non-EU foreigners applying for residence now have to go to their country of origin to do so, for a process that may take months, and they must present the originals of documents such as birth or wedding certificates. Most importantly foreigners who are refused residence by the Interior Ministry can no longer take their case to court as they could in the past. Over a quarter of those court appeals were successful.
The stricter requirements have also impacted Czechs employing foreign nationals. Employers are barred from taking on foreigners from outside the EU if the firms get into debt, fail to pay social insurance or are found guilty of making illegal hires. And a foreigner who gets into any trouble with the law and is convicted will immediately be expelled from the country.
Senator Láska says this will gradually make foreigners shun the Czech Republic, as is now the case with migrants. Bohuslav Chalupa from the ANO party counters that in view of the security situation in Europe and the world today, individual countries will have to respond in order to protect their nationals and the Czech Republic is doing just that.
“The fact is that both international and Czech legal norms were adopted at a time when lawmakers did not envisage our present day problems such as a massive migrant wave, climate change or a rapid deterioration of the security situation. So the question is whether it is not time to revise those laws, because today we face entirely different problems than we did ten years ago.”