Photo: KK/BD

Czech Republic To Prepare Voluntary Return Of Refugees

Photo: KK for Brno Daily

Prague, Aug 20 (CTK) – The Czech Republic will prepare a special programme for the voluntary return of refugees to Ukraine and it would provide them with assistance and cover some of the costs as envisaged in the draft sixth amendment to the lex Ukraine.

The government will decide on the form of support. It will also allocate money for it. It will then launch the project. It should also extend by one year the provision of temporary protection to newcomers until the end of March 2025.

At the end of last week, according to the Interior Ministry, there were 360,900 refugees from Ukraine with protection visas, most of them women and children. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently urged host countries not to force refugees to return.

“There is a need to respond to the increasing demand from foreigners for assistance in returning back to Ukraine. Although the situation in Ukraine is not satisfactory in many respects, it is appropriate to offer assistance to those who wish to return,” the authors of the amendment said. In the supporting documents to the amendment, they point out that developments do not yet indicate that the war will end soon and that refugees will be able to return.

The rules for voluntary return are already regulated by the foreigners law and the asylum law.

The Ministry of the Interior buys the train or air ticket, and staff provide assistance with check-in. Asylum seekers, people with cancelled or non-renewed residence permits and deported persons can apply for return.

According to the Interior Ministry, the current general rules are inadequate and not flexible enough, so a special programme will be set up. The government will set out exactly what the state will provide to war refugees on voluntary return. It will also allocate money for this. Refugees will be able to apply for assistance with voluntary return.

The Ministry of the Interior will pay some of the costs. This support will only be available once. If the returnees then want to obtain a long-term visa in the Czech Republic within a set period of time, they would first have to repay half of the aid provided. “If the amount is not reimbursed, such an application for a residence permit is unacceptable,” the authors of the proposal said.

According to the Voice of Ukrainians survey, conducted by PAQ Research together with sociologists from the Academy of Sciences, a quarter of refugees definitely wanted to return home in June. A year ago, it was a third. Half of the respondents definitely want to stay abroad.

The UNHCR said in June in a statement on returns that there remains a great need for humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and despite efforts to rebuild the country, returning more people is not possible. It called on host states not to force refugees to return but to allow shorter trips home without withdrawing protection. Visits can help in decision-making. “The decision to return must be well-informed and fully voluntary – without incentives to return prematurely, including limiting access to legal status, documentation, social systems or other rights and assistance in host countries,” the UNHCR writes.

According to representatives of aid organisations, many refugees are also returning because of the July change in support, due to which it is difficult to make ends meet. Labour Minister Marian Jurecka (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) rejects this. He told reporters that the changes have helped increase refugee activity and more of them have jobs.

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