The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced last week that the Czech consulate in Hanoi has stopped accepting applications from Vietnamese nationals for both long-term resident permits and visas, citing incapacity to handle the backlog of requests – but most of all, security risks, in the form of “exported” organised crime.
In justifying the indefinite suspension on new applications, Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, temporarily also in charge of the foreign ministry portfolio, cited evidence that the Vietnamese drug mafia has been abusing the system. In an effort to combat illegal activity, he said, Czech authorities will now give priority to residence applications made on the grounds of uniting families.
The outgoing foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, had said in June that “Vietnam is simply organised crime”, alleging that the Czech Republic is becoming a centre for producing crystal meth and other illegal synthetic drugs, with the trade dominated by Vietnamese and Chinese gangs.
Welcoming the unilateral suspension of applications from Vietnam, Mr Zaorálek told Czech Radio the move came after exhaustive efforts to find a bilateral solution.
“We tried to solve this through mutual cooperation. We wanted, for example, to work together to exercise better control over who comes here from Vietnam. We also want to be able to exclude those involved in organised crime … Over the past year, we have been consistently engaged with Vietnam, trying to resolve the situation so we would not have to resort to strict measures like halting the inflow of workers."
The Vietnamese are the third-biggest group of foreigners in the Czech Republic after Ukrainians and Slovaks. The community is largely economically self-sufficient, with many families running small grocery stores, and though somewhat closed despite integration efforts, is not seen as problematic, opinion polls show.
That said, there have been numerous arrests of alleged Vietnamese gang members for trafficking in drugs, fake brand-name goods, and – just last week – tigers and other protected animals whose parts are used in traditional Asian medicines.
Mr Zaorálek, who served as foreign minister for nearly four years, says while illegal drug production is the most serious problem regarding Vietnamese organised crime, all illegal activity robs the state of crucial revenue.
"Illegal activities do not contribute to the Czech economy. A considerable amount of financial activity is not subject to taxation since it is part of the grey economy… So, this is something that seriously undermines the economy – and the damage is considerable. Synthetic drugs are the most serious problem. Unfortunately, there are many others.”
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