Czech Republic won't refuse asylum to those facing danger in Afghanistan

The Czech Republic will welcome Afghans who want to remain in the country as evacuations continue, said Interior Minister Jan Hamáček.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 17.08.2021 12:52:00 (updated on 17.08.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Following discussions on Monday, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček has confirmed that the Czech Republic will offer asylum to Afghans who leave the country as part of Czech evacuation operations. Hamáček also confirmed that more flights are required to evacuate Czech citizens and Afghans who have cooperated with Czech forces after the Taliban took control of Kabul at the weekend.

“We are doing everything we can to bring all Czech citizens and Afghans who have worked with us to the Czech Republic. I can’t talk about how many more flights will be needed, but we do still need some more,” Hamáček said in a press conference.

The Interior Minister also confirmed that Afghans who arrive in the Czech Republic will receive support to help them integrate into society, if they choose to remain in the country. Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib offered support with the admission of Afghan interpreters and their families.

“We will be responsible for helping people who arrive in the Czech Republic. After going through all the required procedures, we are ready to provide them with the maximum cooperation to help them integrate into Czech society, if they are interested in staying here,” Hamáček said.

“Our legal system does not allow the refusal of asylum to someone who, as a result of that refusal and the impending deportation from the Czech Republic, would be in danger of injury to health or persecution due to their political views,” he added.

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The expression of support for evacuees was a significant change in tone from the government’s previous attitude towards Afghans fleeing the country. The lack of organized resettlement programs for interpreters who helped the Czech armed forces has been heavily criticized, as has Hamáček’s previous statement that unlike other western countries, the Czech Republic will not stop the deportation of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan.

Such statements suggested a similarly tough stance towards refugees as was adopted by the Czech Republic during the European migrant crisis of 2015. The Czech Republic then rejected EU quotas for migrants and was accused by the UN of “systematic” rights violations of refugees fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria. The Czech Republic remains among the least generous EU nations when it comes to granting asylum.

There are currently 34 Afghan nationals in the Detention Center for Foreigners, according to the authorities. It is unclear how many of this number are currently awaiting deportation. The Czech Republic has granted asylum to 21 people from Afghanistan and provided temporary shelter for another 43 in the past decade, according to statistics from the Interior Ministry. A total of 188 applications were made from Afghan men, women and children in that period.

Hamáček’s comments came as the first Czech military plane carrying evacuees from Kabul landed in Prague on Monday. A second flight landed in Kabul today, but given the chaotic situation at the airport, it is unclear when it will depart for Prague. It is believed the first plane mainly carried Czech embassy personnel, while Afghan interpreters and other helpers are still awaiting evacuation.

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