In response to numerous complaints with regard to abuse of the Czech visa system in Ukraine, the Czech consulate in Lvov has moved to simplify and speed up the process. Steps have been taken to root out corruption by local middlemen who blocked the registration system, making it virtually impossible for anyone else to sign up for months. Applicants will now be able to book by phone, eliminating the long waiting lines outside the consulate and the waiting time for a visa should be reduced from 130 days to 75.
There are lots of countries in the world that have been hesitant about letting refugees through their borders. The recently re-elected Czech president even ran his campaign partly on a non-immigrant agenda. Nevertheless, Prague is a hub in Europe for those looking for a better life including some refugees from countries suffering from war and poverty.
The Czech Republic has the lowest jobless rate in the European Union with vacancies now outstripping the registered unemployed. But moves to attract workers from Ukraine are being hampered by red tape. That sparked a lightning visit last week by the Czech labour minister and a raft of reforms are now promised.
When Edward Meegan visited the Czech Republic as a tourist in 1993, he had no intention of staying. I talked to him twenty-five years later about his Czech-American family, his career and his life as an American in the Czech Republic. I started off by asking him about his initial decision to remain in Prague.
A few weeks ago the Czech Republic joined “Refugees Welcome International ” a platform that was founded in November 2014 to connect refugees with locals who are willing to share their living space and on a day-to-day basis help refugees feel at home in their new country. I spoke to Tomáš Jungwirth, one of the organizers of the project in the Czech Republic, about how it will work and what he hopes to achieve in a country that is not perceived as being overly friendly to migrants.
The Czech Interior Ministry has granted asylum to eight Chinese Christians seeking protection in the country on the grounds of religious persecution. The requests of seventy other applicants were rejected. A lawyer representing the group of Chinese Christians has said she will advise them to appeal the decision.
For nearly 20 years, the Multicultural Centre Prague has been involved in promoting human rights and respect for cultural diversity. Their activities and projects focus on the social and economic advancement of migrants in the Czech Republic or inclusion of socially disadvantaged minorities. I met with the centre’s director Zuzana Schreiberová to discuss some of their activities, including a project called Prague Shared and Divided or the recently published Prague-Warsaw newspaper: