Czech Republic

23

Download MIPEX III Czech Republic in Czech (pdf)

 

Overview

The Czech Republic remains an important country of immigration, despite the economic crisis. Non-EU residents, often young and temporarily employed in the most affected sectors, were disproportionately impacted, with unemployment rising and new immigration falling. Voluntary return programmes proved ineffective, since most want to stay. Conditions are worse in their home countries but may improve here, they hope, given what they paid and expected when migrating.

Migrants still enjoy largely the same legal opportunities to integrate. General access to the labour market remains better than most Central European countries. Neither political rights, nor Czech citizenship were reformed, unlike in other new countries of immigration. Stated family reunion policies have not changed, even if discretionary procedures can. Moreover, the new language test for long-term residence did not lower the score because it aims to encourage applicants to succeed.

Czech integration policies rose 4 MIPEX points, now outranking EE, LT, CH, thanks to the 2009 Anti-Discrimination Law. These EU minimum standards improve access to justice for many victims, regardless of nationality or background, and help all residents fully participate in society.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 March 2008
Access to nationality
Government discusses Citizenship Act but without a final decision
0 May 2008
Anti-discrimination
President vetoes first proposal of law to implement EC anti-discrimination Directives
0 January 2009
Labour market mobility
Green Card system facilitates labour migration
-2 January 2009
Long-term residence–conditions
Decision 538–language tests become effective
+24 June 2009
Anti-discrimination
Anti-discrimination Law (198/2009) is implemented–improvements on all dimensions

Key Findings

  • Last to transpose EU anti-discrimination directives, national laws make significant progress, still below European average. 
  • Public Defender of Rights appointed as equality body. 
  • State equality policies still weak; law needs greater support for implementation. 
  • Good basic access to labour market and family reunion, as in other new countries of labour migration. 
  • Favourable conditions in law, high discretion in procedures: challenge across Central Europe. 
  • ‘Reciprocal’ voting rights ineffective, political liberties still limited. 
  • Czech Republic behind other new countries of immigration on dual nationality, birthright citizenship. 
  • Schools better prepared for migrant children than most in region; access still a problem. 
  • New basic language test for long-term residence: will applicants succeed? 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Equal worker's rights in practice

    While the economic crisis did not affect the MIPEX score for labour market mobility, there have been attempts to control previously unregulated employment agencies, specifically regarding how they bring in and treat migrant workers. Licences have already been withdrawn for breaches of conditions. There have also been calls to extend the focus beyond control to a more complete and lasting protection. Targeted measures could better guarantee migrant workers’ labour rights and help them report employer abuses.

    The Czech Republic emerges as one of the very few in Central Europe better preparing for its migration needs. The MIPEX score on labour market mobility has not changed since 2007. As in labour migration countries, migrants should have access to all sectors, with no special barriers to establishing a business. However, their rights as workers are just as unfavourable as they are favourable. Temporary migrant workers cannot access unemployment benefits or public employment services. When working, they should have the same working conditions as nationals (see box). Despite new efforts to facilitate the recognition of qualifications, substantive targeted measures remain limited compared to other new immigration countries (e.g. ES, PT). 

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    Migrants have slightly favourable opportunities to be reunited with their families, as in most new labour migration countries. The Czech Republic is slightly above the European average on all 4 dimensions. The major weakness is the requirement to be a long-term/permanent resident. Even if sponsors have the necessary housing and resources, they can be kept apart from their family for 5 years. When they can apply, the definition of family is rather inclusive. The family receives a 1-year renewable permit, with equal access to education and employment. Still, they can lose their status on many grounds, including where their sponsor becomes unemployed. An autonomous status is possible but subject to long delays.

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    Not all migrant pupils can access Czech education, but when they can, the modest targeted support for them is better than in most Central European countries. Only compulsory education is available for all migrant children, regardless of status. Half the MIPEX countries extend access to all education levels (recently ES). According to laws and decrees, Czech language courses should be needs-based, professionally taught, and regularly evaluated, while mother tongue and cultures should be available, at least for EU citizens and long-term residents. The potential school segregation of migrant pupils is not yet monitored and addressed in policy. Schools are required to teach multicultural education across the curriculum and get some state support on implementation.

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    Immigrant leaders in public life

    Effective voting rights have been granted in Central Europe (SK, HU, SI, LT) and new consultative bodies created across Europe (IE, ES, PT, soon EE). Currently, the Czech government consults and works from time to time with NGOs in Commissions and Committees, which is different from democratic consultation with communities themselves. Recognised minorities— but not migrants—get special funding for community activities. Since 2009, 6 new regional integration centres have been run by NGOs, local governments, and public agencies, but not by immigrants. See www.migrationonline.cz/e-library/?x=2228265.

    Increased immigration has led to better political opportunities for newcomers in many new immigration countries, but little in the Czech Republic (see box). These opportunities are the 2nd least favourable for integration of all 31 MIPEX countries. Government has been ineffective at signing treaties giving ‘reciprocal’ voting rights for non-EU permanent residents, since adopted in 2001. Immigrants are still denied key political liberties (as in 9 Central European countries). Immigrants cannot join parties, nor found associations unless 3 Czech citizens are on the board. Despite 2009’s regional integration centres to offer services to migrants, so far immigrants themselves do benefit from democratic consultative bodies or dedicated funding to organise, meet community needs, and represent their interests. 

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    Language test

    A new test may or may not be a barrier for some migrants, depending on its design and implementation. The government introduced a language test for long-term residence, a trend in several European countries. Its goals were to help applicants learn more Czech while reducing the unequal treatment, which characterise unqualified language checks in several countries. It therefore sets an attainable level (A1) and exempts those with proven abilities or disabilities. Qualified schools organise tests at no cost, while preparatory courses may be free, especially with state grants.

    If the law is properly implemented, the procedure for long-term residence should enable all applicants to obtain a slightly secure status. After 5 years, many types of migrants can apply for the same social and economic opportunities as nationals, as in most European countries. But in Central Europe, the conditions advertised in law are often not those applied in practice. In the Czech Republic, anyone with a basic income and language knowledge meets the requirements. But authorities have many ways of rejecting their application, without considering their circumstances. 2009’s new language test, scoring 93, is one example of how the Czech Republic and many countries can reduce discretion and potentially encourage applicants to succeed (see box). 

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Citizenship reform

    Several new countries of immigration introduced dual nationality (now 18 MIPEX) and some jus soli citizenship (15), aiming to fight exclusion in their changing societies. LU and PT now recognise citizenship for immigrants’ grandchildren. GR does the same for their children, many of whom faced administrative difficulties to study and work in their country of birth. Because many newcomers can meet the legal conditions within a few years, GR and PT lowered the residence requirement. For other recent reforms, see DE, BE, FI, and SE.

    The path to citizenship is long and discouraging for immigrants and their descendants in the Czech Republic and across Central Europe. Legislators had years of talk about reform, but little action, unlike reforming new immigration countries (see box). Eligibility is critically unfavourable, as in only BG, HU and LV. Most immigrants must live in the country for, on average, a total of 10 years. Their children and even grandchildren are still considered foreigners at birth. That many must renounce their previous nationality does not promote integration. Conditions for obtaining citizenship are halfway favourable but may not be respected in the discretionary procedure; for instance during the language interview. New citizens are as secure in their status as Czech nationals. 

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    Implementing and improving the law

    Some of the strongest antidiscrimination laws are actually found in Central Europe. In BG, HU, and RO, lawyers and stakeholders have become better trained and experienced in how to use the law as well as evidence like statistics and situation testing, which can also be used to prove discrimination under CZ law. They have also developed strong, independent and proactive equality bodies, including the Protection Against Discrimination Commission (BG), the Equal Treatment Authority (HU) and the National Council on Combating Discrimination (RO).

     

    Czech residents, with and without a minority background, saw the greatest improvement in integration recently when the government finally (and reluctantly) passed the second proposal for the Anti- Discrimination Law (Law No. 198/2009). With this new law, all legal residents of the Czech Republic are the last in Europe to get the dedicated anti-discrimination measures that are promised under EU law. The President had vetoed the previous proposal in 2008 because, in his opinion, it dealt with issues already covered by existing constitutional provisions and would be ‘unnecessary, counterproductive and bad’ for private relations if adopted.

    Czech law did indeed improve, at least for promoting integration. EU citizens across most countries, especially in Central Europe, all saw great improvements when these minimum standards were adopted in their country. It will help Czech residents of different races, ethnicities, and religions to obtain in practice the equal opportunities they are promised in law. They are now protected against unequal treatment in all main areas of life, whether on grounds of ethnicity or race. They already enjoyed some protection from nationality discrimination. All potential victims should see their rights better enforced through specific protection against victimisation, access to free legal aid and interpreters, as well as a wide range of sanctions. They can also get independent legal advice from the new Public Defender of Rights.

    However, since lawmakers took a minimum standard approach (see EE), Czech residents continue to have some of the weakest protection against discrimination in Europe. Religious discrimination is still tolerated outside of the workplace and job training. Victims cannot receive much help from the Public Defender of Rights, since it cannot issue binding decisions, has no legal standing and cannot conduct its own investigation. Neither will the Czech public benefit from any state initiative to promote equality through information, dialogue or new state practices. In the meantime, other actors in society and the justice system can take the lead on implementation (see box) by helping victims use this historic law and recommending improvements over time.