Nowhere in the entire European Union was a person fleeing their homeland less likely to be granted safe harbour last year than in the Czech Republic. Fresh data from Eurostat show that in 2018 the Czech Ministry of Interior granted international protection to only 1 in 10 applicants – while not a single refugee was resettled here.
The 28 Member States of the EU last year granted protection status to over 333,000 asylum seekers and received nearly 25,000 resettled refugees. In per capita terms, the Czech Republic took in the fewest of all – granting asylum, subsidiary protection, or humanitarian status to a mere 155 first-time applicants, or 15 for every 1 million inhabitants.
The EU countries with the highest shares of “positive” first instance decisions last year were Ireland (at 85 percent) and Luxembourg (72 percent). In contrast, the Czech Republic had the highest share of “negative” first instance decisions (89 percent). In other words, nine in 10 applicants were rejected.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Ondrej Krátoška says the high rejection rate is not a reflection of a draconian policy, as it might appear. It stems rather from far fewer applicants coming from the “most vulnerable groups”, coming from countries torn apart by civil war or extended conflict – such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It’s important to note many applications were filed by persons who entered the Czech Republic legally, and had been here for a long time – sometimes even for several years. Many applying for international protection are trying to legalize their stay, for example, after a visa or residence permit has expired.”
While people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq accounted for the lion’s share of applications throughout the EU last year – over 30 percent – in the Czech Republic the situation is rather different, Mr Krátoška told Radiožurnál.
“People from those three countries – the most common source countries in Europe – accounted for only 7.5 percent of total of applicants for international protection in the Czech Republic. Here, about 25 percent of applicants were from Ukraine; nearly 10 percent each were from Georgia, Cuba or Armenia.”
According to the Interior Ministry spokesman, since most applicants seeking legal safe harbour here come from more stable countries they would be unlikely to be granted asylum in other EU countries as well.
But Hana Franková, head of the Organization for Aid to Refugees, which provides legal counselling to dozens of applicants a week, says Czech policy has long been more restrictive than that of other EU member states.
“This is not a new development. Our country has long accepted a lower percentage of applicants. In our view, a number of factors contribute to the Czech process being overly restrictive. Far more should have received at least some form of international protection.”
Ms Franková says Czech authorities devote too little time to studying cases of individual asylum-seekers. A more comprehensive evaluation process, she says, would confirm far more legitimate refugee claims based on political activity, membership in an ethnic or religious minority, or sexual orientation.
Furthermore, she notes, an applicant appeals their initial rejection, the courts can only submit their findings back to the ministry of Interior – which can then reject it a second time.
According to Eurostat, in 2018, 37 percent of EU-28 first instance asylum decisions resulted in positive outcomes, i.e. grants of refugee or subsidiary protection status, or an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. For first instance decisions, some 56 percent of all positive decisions in the bloc resulted in grants of refugee status.
Among EU member states, the highest shares of positive first instance decisions out of the total number of first instance decisions in 2018 were recorded in Ireland (85 percent) and Luxembourg (72 percent).
Conversely, France, Estonia, Spain, Latvia, Poland and the Czech Republic each recorded first instance rejection rates between 72 percent (France) and 89 percent (the Czech Republic).
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