The Czech government on Monday approved a plan for the Czech Republic to take in 37 Christian families from Iraq. A total of 153 refugees who have fled Islamic State aggression and are currently living in refugee camps in Kurdistan and Lebanon, are due to arrive in three stages in 2016. The plan was initiated by the Generation 21 Foundation, which has pledged to finance most of the relocation project. I asked the head of the Generation 21 Foundation, Jan Talafant to provide some details:
“The people come from the cities of Mosul and around. More than one year ago Islamic State invaded the city and they had to flee very quickly. All of them lost all their property and houses and many lost their relatives, husbands and brothers. They left for Erbil on the Kurdish part of Iraq and they are staying in refugee camps with no other prospects than to leave.”
Can you tell me more about the background of the people? Who are they?
“Most of them are families - husband, wife and children and there are about nine widows, some older women and some with small children. Concerning education, about half of the men and quarter of the women have a university education. They had their own businesses and good jobs in the past and they are ready to work in the Czech Republic as well. They are certainly not waiting for social assistance; they want to lead normal lives.”
Did you have any criteria when you were selecting the people that could be relocated to the Czech Republic?
“Yes, the first thing was that our co-workers had to get to know them: these people were telling the same story even before they learned about the possibility to move to the Czech Republic and they are telling the same story now as well. They are not on the list because they are Christians but because they are persecuted because of their religion, so they are in the worst situation of all the people in that area.”
Did they have to pass some security clearance?
“Yes, this is a condition of the Czech Republic. Each one of them underwent a security check, otherwise they wouldn’t be let in the country.”
What will the resettlement look like? When could the first refugees start arriving in the Czech Republic and what will the next steps be?
“Of course we would like them to be here as soon as possible. According to the plan of the Interior Ministry, the first group should come in January and the other three or four groups should arrive within three to four week intervals.
“Then they will move to some recreational centre or a hotel for about two or three months to attend a Czech language course. And after about six months they can move to different places according to their priorities and hopefully some of them could start working. We hope that within a year most of them will be self-sufficient and will be able to lead normal lives.”