Governance of migrant integration in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic was a transit country until the 1990s. It is now a destination in its own and counts 14 times more immigrants than in 1989. First, large numbers of ex-Soviet citizens sought international protection; than labour migration also increased with the rapid economic growth of the second half of the 2000s.
On 1 January 2017, 288 247 Third-Country Nationals (TCNs) were living in the Czech Republic. They represented 3% of the total population, according to the Czech Statistical Office.
2 972 were granted asylum, 192 901 were permanent residents and 92 347 had temporary residence permits, of which 19 939 for education, 25 631 for family reasons, 38 620 for economic activities and 8 184 for others reasons.
In 2016, out of the 22 594 permits issued, 47% were for studies, 33% for economic activities, 17% for family reunification and 3% for other reasons. Overall, the most represented countries of origin are neighbouring states and labour partners Ukraine (110 245), Vietnam (58 080) and Russia (35 987).
In addition to the foreign population, over 41 000 Czech nationals with migrant background have acquired Czech citizenship since the country joined the EU in 2004; 5 549 of which were naturalised in 2016. Publicly available statistics on naturalisation do not differentiate EU from non-EU origins.
To integrate and foster the social inclusion of this growing population with migrant background, the Ministry of the Interior drafted the Czech Republic first immigrant integration policy in 2000. It focused on equal opportunities and non-discrimination, as well as measures to provide long-term residents with rights similar to those of Czech citizens. The document was fundamentally updated in 2006, 2011 and 2016, with an increased emphasis on promoting good relations between migrant communities and the majority population.
- Priorities - proficiency in the Czech language, orientation in society, economic self-sufficiency, mutual relations among communities, gradual acquisition of rights, etc.
- Goals - active participation, prevention of conflicts, exclusion and segregation, integration of second generations, regional and local integration, etc.
- Means - practical cooperation with stakeholders, support of the civic society, etc.
Both the policy documents and action plans target all third country nationals, including refugees mainly after their arrival but also during the pre-migration period. The majority society is also a target group of some integration measure.
Beneficiaries of international protection are the target group of all integration programmes ever set up by the Czech government. The first support programme provided to persons granted international protection was introduced in 1994, 6 years before the first Policy for the Integration of Immigrants. Language and training courses, as well as support to access to the labour and housing market was its main priority.
The second State Integration Programme was elaborated in 2000 while the third one was designed in 2015, as a response to the expected increased number of asylum seekers due to the war in Syria. The State Integration Programme now includes 3 parts:
- an individual integration plan to find housing, a job, appropriate education, health care, as well as guidance to apply for social benefits
- Czech language courses where 400 hours are guaranteed
- civic education course with 20 hours of attendance
The Programme is optional. Beneficiaries of international protection may enrol within one year after the status has been granted and are encouraged to use each tool as relevant for their individual case.
The Czech integration strategy was officially assessed in 2009. The report on the Implementation of the Policy for the Integration of Foreign Nationals describes changes in the migration situation (decrease of migration flows) and a reorientation of integration measures to specific localities with high concentration of immigrants. As of 2011, the assessment is part of the report on Migration and the Integration of Foreign Nationals in the Czech Republic.
In addition, a system of Indicators of the integration of third-country nationals was established by the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs in 2010 and the role of the Integration Centres was assessed by the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs in 2015.
As for the State Integration Programme, it was evaluated by the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in 2012.
þ Foreigners Law
The Czech Foreigners Law adopted in 1999 is among the most amended laws in the country. In 2017, a complex amendment was adopted, introducing new procedures for residence permits. Another amendment aiming among other things to introduce a legal obligation for TCNs to attend Welcome courses is under discussion.
þ Asylum Law
An Asylum Law was adopted in 1999 to complement the Foreigners Law and to regulate specific areas of international protection. Following multiple amendments, a comprehensive reform entered into effect in 2016. Among other changes, it shortens the period of stay prior to which asylum-seekers gain a free access to the labour market from 12 to 6 months. It also provides for the individualised approach of the integration programme currently in effect.
ý Integration Law
The Czech Republic does not have a self-standing integration law. Measures in this field are based on resolutions of the Government of the Czech Republic.
þ Nationality Law
The 2013 Citizenship Law fully repealed the 20-year-old law No. 40/1993 Coll. It, among other changes, allows the possession of two citizenships and adds new categories of persons entitled to citizenship. This resulted in a significant spike in the number of people applying for and granted citizenship. No further amendment has been adopted since then.
Czech Republic’s first Anti-discrimination law was adopted in 2009. It implements the EU legislative framework but anchors only limited procedural safeguards against discrimination. It has largely remained intact ever since but amendments are currently being drafted.
The Czech Ministry of the Interior has a coordinating role in the field of integration since 2000, succeeding to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (2004 - 2008). Its Department for Asylum and Migration Policy is responsible for the coordination of both State Integration Programme and the Policy for the Integration of Immigrants.
Its Refugee Facilities Administration implements the State Integration Programme and operates 1 out of the 14 regional Integration Centres. 3 other Integration Centres – Centre for the integration of foreigners in Usti, Caritas in Hradec Králové and Integration Centre Prague are managed by NGOs and one by the South Moravia Regional Authority.
On the regional and municipal level, the integration agenda is usually covered in respective sections of community plans, typically within the education, housing and social services sections. Although local authorities are not obliged to develop their own strategies, the region of Prague did design a Concept of Integration of Foreigners in 2014, in cooperation with a wide range of public and civil society organisations.
Besides managing the 3 out of 13 Regional Integration Centres, civil society organisations are also represented in the Committee on the Rights of Foreigners of the Government Council for Human Rights. Their role is mainly to review and comments on upcoming legislation and policies. In addition, specific migrant communities have representatives at the Council on National Minorities which also exists on municipal level.
Over all, civic society plays an important role in the process of the integration of immigrants in large cities and mainly in Prague.
Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. European Social Fund, Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and national budget are the most important sources of financing. AMIF is coordinated by the Department for Home Affairs EU Funds, the national allocation for the Czech Republic under AMIF is € 47 831 177. 20% of this amount is allocated to asylum and 46% to integration. National integration priorities for the fund reflect the Integration Policy and include language education, social orientation and support to regional integration centres and other service providers. Czech AMIF programmeIn addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.
|Public funding||Private funding|
þ Providing integration services
- Counselling Centre for Integration
- Organization for Aid to Refugees
- Association for Integration and Migration
- Centre for Integration of Foreigners
- Caritas in Prague
- Caritas in Brno
- Caritas Czech Republic – helpline
- Caritas in Hradec Králové
- Caritas in České Budějovice
- Caritas in Plzeň
- Most Pro
- Meta o.p.s.
- Association of Citizens Assisting Immigrants
- Slovo 21
þ Implementing Integration Programme
- Slovo 21 – Bulletin
- Agency for Social Inclusion
- Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations
þ Publishing statistics and research