The Government Council for Human Rights dealt with immigrants´ rights issues

The Council of the Government of the Czech Republic for Human Rights dedicated the latest meeting at 7th of October 2013 to the issues of immigrants´ rights. Topics such as migrant’s access to the health insurance, restrictions connected with employment of international workers and functioning of VISAPOINT system for visa applications in foreign countries have been discussed.

“Today’s meeting of Human Rights Council is devoted to the issues, connected with protection of migrant’s rights and I am very happy that all proposals have been accepted” – stated the representative of Government Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs. Šimůnková. The proposals had been prepared by its advisory body – the Committee for foreigners’ rights, which is comprised of relevant ministries’ and NGOs’ representatives.

The first discussed proposal dealt with prohibition on working trips of foreigners, which was introduced because of the change of the labor law interpretation by Ministry of Labor and Social Affair and was anchored in internal regulations. Few migrants already received a deportation order as they were realizing their work in a different place than in the one stated in their working permit, which was – according to this law interpretation – considered an illegal work. The Supreme Administrative Court stated in its judicature that this change of law interpretation was contrary to the law text and to the intention of legislator. Therefore, the Council in its resolution to the government suggests to the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs to introduce an amendment to the Employment Act, where all bylaws will be revised and which will state that foreigners can be sent on working trips. At the same time the Council asked the ministers of Interior and of Labor and Social Affairs to rectify the sanctions issued to the foreigners and employers on the grounds of illegal work. It was made within the meaning of purpose, for example in form of review ex officio.

The second discussed proposal was connected with the employment of foreigners from countries outside the EU and EEA/Switzerland. In 2012, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs ordered the Labour offices to limit any issuing or prolongation of foreigners´working permits. Since July 2012, the permits should have been issued for maximum half a year in case of people working on a low-skill position. Additionally, nostrification of education became obligatory for all other workers. These steps, however, were in contradiction with the law and on the base of merely internal regulations of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Last but not least, it was not even accompanied with any analysis which would prove that Czech citizens occupied the “left” working places (as this was the argument of the ministry for restraining the labour market for immigrants). On that account, The Council suggested to the government to adjust to Ministry of Labor and Social Affair to cancel these internal directives.

The third propose was related to migrant’s access to the health care. This is a very problematic issue as some groups of (even legally staying) foreigners, who have temporary resident permit in the Czech Republic, are not able to be part of public health insurance and are thus dependent on commercial health insurance. Nevertheless, the commercial health insurance is more expensive and the range of services is more limited than services of public insurance. Moreover the insurance companies refuse to cover some treatments or situations, such as premature births etc. Therefore the Committee suggests to the government to incorporate at least self-employed persons, family members and students into the public health care system.

The last purposal was related to functioning of VISAPOINT system (the internet system of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through which foreigners in some countries have to apply for visas for the period of over 90 days, or a long-term or permanent residence). Bad functioning of the system, when some of the applicants are not able to register, has been the object of interests of ombudsman for a long time. Moreover the ombudsman has notified the European Commission that the system disables people to apply for short-term residence even when they have the legal rights on it on the base of the European laws.

The requirement that the applicant of long-term and permanent residences has to register in VISAPOINT system doesn’t have the support in law, in contrast to similar obligation for visa applications. The Supreme Administrative Court has stated early that the right for fair process requires the equal opportunity for submitting applications.

According to the Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to ensure that all representative offices will accept applications for long-term or permanent residence without previous registrations from 1th of January 2014 and have to control the reasons of bad functioning and abuse of VISAPOINT system.

The Human Rights Council is advisory board of the government, which monitors implementation and compliance with Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and international conventions on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. For this purpose the Committee can give the suggestions to the government for improvement of protection and compliance with human rights in the Czech Republic. The Human Rights Council is consisted of 21 ministries’ and NGOs’ representatives and its chairman is the representative of the government for human rights. The committee was gathered for the first time in July 2013 after new members of civil society appointments.

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