The Czech government has suspended the issuing of long-term visas for Vietnamese nationals. The reason? The application process in Hanoi seems to be controlled by criminal gangs. What’s more, this move comes just days after a new report suggested Vietnamese citizens here in the Czech Republic were increasingly involved in organised crime.
A confidential report by the Czech Interior Ministry presented to the government last week said organized crime within the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is on the rise. Some of the criminal activities of Vietnamese nationals include counterfeiting, tax evasions and large-scale growing of marihuana. Coupled with this, the Czech embassy in Vietnam has not been able to avoid interference in the visa application procedure by organized groups of criminals. In response, the Czech government has suspended the issuing of long-term visas for Vietnamese citizens until the end of the year. The spokeswoman for the Czech Foreign Ministry Zuzana Opletalová describes the problems at the embassy in Hanoi.
“There were some illegal activities that affected the function of the call centre. We are trying to find another way of making sure that all applicants have an equal access to our embassy. The details about these steps will be released once they are fully prepared.”
The Vietnamese community is one of the largest in the Czech Republic. According to official statistics there are some 25,000 Vietnamese nationals living in the country but the real figure is estimated to be twice as high. The number of applications for long-term Czech visas has risen 17 times in the last seven years; in 2007, the Czech embassy in Hanoi registered more than 15,000 applicants. But apparently the procedure is controlled by local criminals who charge hefty bribes for allowing people to apply. Once in the Czech Republic, many of these people then become part of organized crime. To avoid this, the embassy launched a call centre in April this year, but it has not helped much. Zuzana Opletalová again.
“We have no influence over the numbers that are calling there. But it seems that some numbers are able reach the line while others are not. So we have to find another way of accepting applications and deal with the problem.”
The suspension disappointed Czech-Vietnamese associations, Czech employers looking to bring in Vietnamese labourers, and the Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said they were ready to work with the Czechs to find a solution. Meanwhile, the process will resume in January 2009, though Czech officials say they are determined to suspend issuing long terms visas again in the future if the problem is not solved.
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