sty12x18 Migration
sty12x18 Asylum
sty12x18 Main Difficulties

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1. Migration

In the past the Czech Lands were one of the major sources of emigration in Europe 27. Today, the Czech Republic has become a transit country for migration into Western European countries (in particular Germany). Nevertheless, foreigners increasingly stay in the country with a residence permit either for an extended period or permanently due to the good economic situation: 50,000 in 1992, 160,000 in 1995 and 206,577 up to June 1997. Since 1990, international migration has begun to play a significant role in population growth, due both to the positive net migration balance and the decline in natural growth. The largest group with permanent residence permits are Poles and Slovaks and with long-term residence permits Ukrainians (40,772), Slovaks (40,102), Vietnamese (15,314), Poles (12,889), Russians and Chinese 28. The increase of the Asian community is very evident since 1995 (25,000 persons as of 30 June 1997) 29. Residence and work permits are required for employment, with special rules for Slovaks.

The Czech Republic has not yet adopted either a new law on aliens or any concrete measures which would bring border management in line with EU rules, though this was one of the short-term priorities. However, an interdepartmental committee has been set up under the Minister of Home Affairs to begin this work; two strategic documents on measures to improve border control have been drafted 30, a draft asylum and a draft aliens law were submitted by the Minister of the Interior to the government in December 1998 for consideration 31.

Illegal immigration

From 1993 to 1995, a total number of 77,729 aliens were discovered illegally crossing the state borders of the Czech Republic, in 1997 24,000, according to the Ministry of the Interior, in 1998 (until October) 32,250 32. In most cases aliens enter Czech territory from the Slovak Republic, stay in the Czech Republic for only a short period and then illegally cross the state borders to the West, especially into Germany. In 1997 the main countries of origin were Romania, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Poland and Ukraine 33; in 1998 Kosovo (32%), Afghanistan, Romania and Bulgaria 34.

The Czech Republic is involved in multilateral structures dealing with migration problems, evaluation of migratory movement trends, regulations for the management of migratory flows and prevention of uncontrolled migration, such as for example with committees of the Council of Europe, or the International Organization for Migration 35. The Czech Republic participates in the Berlin-Budapest Group 36 and provides information on illegal migration through the International Centre for Migration Policies Development. In order to secure the border and to facilitate border clearance, agreements have been concluded with the neighbouring countries of Germany, Austria and the Slovak Republic. Such agreements are, inter alia, a basis for the exchange of information on illegal migration.

Trafficking in human beings

Under the Penal Code of the Czech Republic, crossing borders and organizing border crossing illegally are criminal offences. Checks on persons and transport at border crossings and airports with international traffic are carried out by the Aliens Police of the Czech Republic 37.

In 1994, measures were adopted to strengthen border crossing controls (visa policy in line with EU Council Regulations of September 1995, agreement with Slovakia, etc.). Individual illegal immigration seems to have decreased, but trafficking in human beings has not. The activities of organized gangs, operating at the international level, has become more secretive and better organized. The use of forged, tampered and stolen travel documents for illegally crossing state borders is continuously on the rise. As the Czech Republic has concluded visa-free agreements with many developed countries, the demand for Czech Republic passports has risen 38. The Aliens Police of the Czech Republic concludes that illegal migration of aliens is connected with internationally organized crime, such as smuggling people, dealing in forged documents, car thefts, stolen antiques, arms, drugs, trade in women, money laundering, etc. In 1997, traffickers arrested came mainly from the Czech Republic (74%) and Slovakia (12%) 39.

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2. Asylum

From 1990 to the end of June 1998 the Czech Republic received a total number of 14,686 applications for refugee status with an average of around 2,000 per year. The last months of 1998 have seen a sudden increase in the number of asylum seekers with 790 applicants between 1 and 31 October, among whom were 106 citizens of Afghanistan coming through Moldova on one single flight.


Number of asylum applications

199019911992199319941995199619971998 (Oct)TOTAL











Source: Statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, June 1998


Main countries of origin 1990 - October 1998













ex-Soviet Union




Sri Lanka










* all in 1998
** of which 200 in 1998
Source: Ministry of the Interior, June 1998

The main countries of origin, Bulgaria, Romania and Armenia, have, from 1998 onwards, been replaced by Afghanistan as first country of origin, and also Kosovo.


Percentage of approvals of asylum applications









1998 (June)

1.6 %

39.0 %

29.7 %

11.3 %

9.8 %

4.2 %

7.3 %

4.6 %


Source: Ministry of the Interior, June 1998

From the total number of 14,686 applications in the period from 1990 to the end of June 1998, approximately 12.2 % ( + 1,700 persons) were, on average, granted refugee status annually, but if we look at recent years (1994-1998), the rate is approximately halved ( 6.2%).

Legal basis 40

The Federal Republic of Czechoslovakia, to which the Czech Republic is a successor, ratified without reservations the 1951 Convention, and its Protocol of 1967, on 26 November 1991 41.

Until July 1996, refugee status was limited to five years, but the Czech Parliament approved an amendment to the Law on Refugees lifting this limitation and, after a period of 5 years' residence in the country as a recognized refugee, it is possible to apply for citizenship. Since October 1998, it is the Ministry of the Interior's Department for Refugees which deals with applications and not the border police.

A new asylum law is under preparation with the objective of meeting international and EU standards , especially as far as the 'safe country' principle, accelerated procedures, status for humanitarian reasons and the status of the appeal authority are concerned.

The question of temporary protection is included in the draft aliens law instead of the asylum law, contrary to UNHCR's suggestions. The draft aliens law also includes a provision for a nex 'Toleration' status for those who are not refugees but cannot be returned; the question remains of what rights will accompany this status.


The Refugee Act follows the provisions of Article 1 of the Geneva Convention. Refugee status may be granted to the spouse and minor children of an alien who has been granted Convention status.

Before the 1993 amendment, refugee status had also been granted for humanitarian reasons. This status has been suppressed and there is now only one possiblity - Convention status.

Admissibility procedures

There are no specific admissibility procedures either at the airport or at land borders. Asylum seekers may enter the Czech Republic without a valid travel document, providing they announce their intentions to apply for refugee status when crossing the frontier. In most cases interpretation into Czech, German, Russian, French and English is provided 42. Language can be a barrier for access to the procedure.

A foreigner who wants to apply for asylum has to inform passport control officials of his intention without delay. After the application is received, the asylum seeker can travel to a reception centre and, after one month, to a refugee camp. A later application from a refugee camp is possible if the asylum seeker was unable to express his intention when entering the country for 'objective reasons' (Art. 20 of Law no. 498/1990).

In practice, failure to appear at the refugee camp 'without delay' and to file an asylum application within 24 hours (Article 5 (5) of Law no. 498/1990) does not lead to denial of access to the asylum procedure.

UNHCR and NGOs which could give legal advice are allowed to be present in border areas but they cannot maintain a systematic presence due to insufficient resources.

Duration of the procedure

The decision shall be made within 90 days of the submission of the initial application. If the decision cannot be issued within this term, the Minister of the Interior may extend the term; the applicant must be notified in writing of such an extension.The average duration of the normal procedure is 73 days 43.

The duration of a procedure, including one level of appeal, is 293 days. The average duration, not including the possible judicial review by the Second Instance (High Court) has been 15 months for acceptances and 8 months for refusals 44.

If the asylum application is granted, the decision normally enters into effect within 15 days of its delivery.

Role of the UNHCR

The UNHCR may attend the proceedings at any stage and all decisions are delivered to it. UNHCR's Prague office was established in 1992. It has focused on supporting the government's efforts to set up a fair and efficient asylum system. Currently it also supports five NGOs which provide legal, social and psychological counselling to asylum seekers and support the integration of refugees into Czech society 45.

Appeal and judicial review

The Department for Refugees within the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for asylum policy. Decisions are in the first instance taken by the Directorate of Aliens and Border Police Services at the Police Presidium of the Czech Republic. In the event of a negative decision, an appeal has to be submitted to the Minister of the Interior. The Ministry of the Interior is supposed to receive a recommendation from committees composed of NGOs, various Ministries, the Bar Association and an academic, but the committees have not yet been formed 46. The unsuccessful applicant, whose appeal has been rejected by the Minister of the Interior, can, within 30 days, ask the High Court for a review of the negative decision 47. A motion made to the High Court has no suspensive effect, although in practice the asylum seeker is usually allowed to stay in the country with an extended visa issued with the support of UNHCR. The judicial review procedure usually takes more than a year but is not limited: all who wish can apply and will be heard.

Under certain circumstances, the asylum seeker whose case was rejected by the High Court can lodge a constitutional complaint with the Constitutional Court. So far, no case has been decided at this level.

The fact that an applicant has already been rejected in a Member State of the EU does not in itself constitute a reason for the rejection of their asylum application if they comply with procedural requirements. In practice, an asylum seeker whose application has already been rejected on substantial grounds in a Member State of the EU has only a slight chance of obtaining refugee status in the Czech Republic.

The problem lies in the fact that, without government assistance, it is difficult for persons now considered as foreigners under the Aliens Act to pay for food, shelter, visa fees etc. UNHCR is limited in the number of persons it can assist and has for year asked for this problem to be resolved.

Accelerated procedure for manifestly unfounded claims

The 1993 amendment to the 1990 Refugee Act established an accelerated procedure for manifestly unfounded claims: if the applicant is a citizen of a state where, on the basis of generally known facts, he is not threatened with persecution, if he does not cooperate in reliably ascertaining his identity or if he justifies his application solely on the basis of economic needs. In these cases, the application can be rejected within 7 days of submission.

The applicant has 3 days to appeal. In practice, the accelerated procedure has so far been rarely applied 48. The percentage of applications qualified as manifestly unfounded is very low (4.35% in 1995; 2.18% in 1996 and 2% in 1997) 49.


Asylum seekers are accommodated in refugee centres. The Ministry of the Interior provides four refugee centres for standard asylum seekers and nine residence centres for persons with refugee status. Asylum seekers receive free food, accomodation, basic health and mental health care and pocket money. Primary school education is free for the children of asylum seekers. There were 910 asylum seekers in October 1998 50.

Recognized refugees can benefit, for a maximum period of one year, from accommodation in an integration centre run by the Refugee Department. As soon as they find houses accepted into the housing progamme, they can be integrated into Czech communities with the assistance of the local authorities, through a project funded by the Refugee Department of the Ministry of the Interior. The project started in 1994 and the pre-1994 group are now entitled to benefit from the housing programme. As of the end of September 1997, 98 families comprising 302 persons had found accommodation under this programme 51.

The government provides funding to an NGO to assist in finding housing, providing counselling, orientation and other help to newly recognized refugees 52.

Rejected asylum seekers waiting for the decision of the High Court are treated like foreigners and are allowed by the Alien Police to stay in the country and wait for the decision. For those without a valid document, accommodation, work, medical care, etc. are very problematic. UNHCR provides funds, through NGO's, to pay for accommodation for them in refugee camps 53, a stay usually limited to two months 54.

Safe country rule

Safe country of origin and safe third country rules are not applied but should be integrated into the new law on asylum. This means that all applications for asylum are eligible. In practice, some airport cases are returned to transit states such as Abu Dhabi, such returns being apparently justified by the Aliens and Border Police on the basis that the applicant did not request protection on arrival 55. The First Instance decision is issued on the basis of different facts and evidence: the evidence submitted by the applicant, interviews, the credibility and coherence of the applicant's statements, the country of origin information provided by UNHCR through its database REWORLD, by Czech diplomatic missions and other sources 56.

Readmission agreements

Readmission agreements with neighbouring countries have been concluded as follows:

with the Slovak Republic (signed on 25 October 1996), Austria (1 November 1992), Poland (30 October 1993), Romania (26 May 1994), Germany (1 January 1995), Hungary (5 August 1995), France (1997). An Agreement with Canada was signed on 8 March 1997 and entered into force on 7 October 1997 57.

Negotiations with Slovenia are being conducted, draft proposals have been sent to Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and Russia and expert talks with the Netherlands are being prepared. Readmission arrangements signed at government level are supplemented by more detailed arrangements (protocols) agreed between the ministries responsible.

In practice, problems occur especially when asylum seekers are returned to the Czech Republic under readmission agreements. The Czech authorities are not informed of the fact that a returned person has applied for asylum in another country and that the asylum application was not examined on its merits.

Temporary protection

Organized voluntary repatriation ended in 1997 with six flights (190 persons). Temporary protection ended for Bosnians on 30 September 1997 and for other former Yugoslavs on 31 December 1996. The Czech government, in projects with Czech NGO's, provided housing in Bosnia for those unable to find other housing. Those remaining in the Czech Republic adjusted their status either to long-term stay for work or study (about 410 Bosnians by the end of 1997), permanent residence for humanitarian reasons (about 180 by the end of 1997), or involved the 118 persons with permanent residence in a special humanitarian programme. This last group is eligible for the same integration programme as recognized refugees 58. Others (50-100) resettled, mostly to the US, usually without UNHCR involvement 59.

Integration measures

The first integration project for recognized refugees dates back to 1991. Since 1994, a more comprehensive governmental programme aimed at the integration of recognized refugees has been carried out by the Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with other governmental agencies, local authorities, communities, the UNHCR and NGOs 60. It includes Czech language courses, providing for housing and employment and integration into the new community.

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Main difficulties

Illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings seem to be increasing but the law on aliens has not been changed and border management has not improved enough to reduce this trend.

Asylum seekers are granted access if they specifically ask for asylum in the Czech Republic - they must understand this. In practice, many seem not to be interested and, upon release, attempt to cross the western border again 61.

Asylum seekers returned to the Czech Republic under readmission agreements face the risk of being refused access to the procedure at the border because of the Czech authorities' not being informed that the application had not yet been examined on its merits.

Language can also be a problem, both for access to the procedure and for integration in the country.

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27. The Czech Republic is geographically close to Germany, a country towards which emigration of Czechs had already started before 1880, together with emigration to Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the Scandinavian countries.

28. Ministry of the Interior, Directorate of the Aliens and Border Police Service, at the Police Presidium, note to DG IV, January 1998

29. Ministry of the Interior, Directorate of the Aliens and Border Police Service, at the Police Presidium, note to DG IV, January 1998

30. Commission Opinion on the Czech Republic's application for membership of the EU, 'Progress towards Accession', November 1998

31. UNHCR, Lawrence Bottinick, December 1998

32. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 16 October 1998; source: Jiri Kolar, Police President of the Czech Republic

33. Ministry of the Interior, Directorate of the Aliens and Border Police Service, at the Police Presidium, note to DG IV, January 1998

34. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 16 October 1998; source: Jiri Kolar, Police President of the Czech Republic

35. an intergovernmental body composed of 60 Member States and 49 Observer States; its objective is to ensure the orderly migration of persons in need of international assistance

36. The Budapest Group deals with uncontrolled migration issues. 36 countries (including Canada, USA, Australia, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine), as well as several international organizations, are members of this group. It seems to be the only forum where specialists on immigration issues gather from EU countries, the associated countries and the CIS countries.

37. Act no. 123/1992 Coll. on the Residence of Aliens as amended by other laws and Act no. 216/1992 Coll. on Travel Documents and Travelling Abroad stipulates the conditions of entry and residence in the territory of the Czech Republic

38. This can be deduced from the rising amount of lost documents - about 10,000 passports a year. The price of a passport ranges from 500 to 1,000 DEM (1 DEM=1.97 ECU), 15,000 DEM with a visa for the USA.

39. Council of Europe, CDMG, 'Evolution récente des politiques relatives aux migrations et aux migrants', 28 August 1998, p.21

40. 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.
European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Art. 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Liberties on Right of Asylum (part of the Constitution).
Refugee status: Law no. 498/1990, amended 317/1993 and 150/1996 (Refugee Act).
Aliens Act (Law 123/1992) and Law 261/1991 (Travel documents and travel abroad)

41. National legislation: Refugee Act 498/90 (16/11/90) amended by Law no. 317/93 (8/12/93) and Law no. 150/96 (31/5/96), Aliens Act 123/92 (4/3/92)

42. UNHCR Prague, Radhouane Nouicer, Head of Liaison Office, 'Asylum procedure in the Czech Republic', note to the European Parliament, DG IV, June 1996

43. UNHCR, Regional Bureau for Europe, Report and Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on the Protection of Refugees in Central Europe, 23-25 April 1997, Budapest, p. 242

44. UNHCR, op cit. p. 245

45. UNHCR Information Bulletin, September 1998

46. UNHCR, Lawrence Bottinick, December 1998

47. Ministry of the Interior, Department for Refugees and the Integration of Foreigners, A. Barsova, note to DG IV, January 1998

48. UNHCR, Regional Bureau for Europe, Report and Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on the Protection of Refugees in Central Europe, 23-25 April 1997, Budapest, p. 244

49. Ministry of the Interior, Directorate of the Aliens and Border Police of the Police Presidium, August 1998

50. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, October 1998; source: Jiri Kolar, Police President of the Czech Republic

51. UNHCR Prague, Lawrence Bottinick, September 1998

52. UNHCR Prague, Lawrence Bottinick, September 1998

53. ECRE, biannual meeting, Lausanne, October 1996

54. UNHCR Prague, Lawrence Bottinick, September 1998

55. Danish Refugee Council, '"Safe third country" Policies in European Countries', 1997, p. 48

56. UNHCR, op. cit. p.242

57. In October 1997, in an effort to curb the inflow of Roma asylum seekers with Czech citizenship, Canada reimposed entry visas on Czech visitors after a visa-free trial system.

58. This permanent resident status was granted on the basis of Executive Decree no. 580/1996 concerning the project of durable solutions for vulnerable cases of temporarily protected persons. The decree provided for an inter-ministerial committee to favourably consider vulnerable cases which might not otherwise meet the criteria for refugee status or permanent residence status. The programme aimed at securing adequate health care and social assistance for these handicapped persons, as well as adequate housing for them and members of their families: Ministry of the Interior, A. Barsova, Department for Refugees and the Integration of Foreigners, August 1998

59. UNHCR Prague, Lawrence Bottinick, September 1998

60. Similar programmes are implemented for immigrants of Czech origin for instance.

61. UNHCR, Lawrence Bottinick, December 1998

© European Parliament: February 1999