How is the Czech Ministry of the Interior (not) working: Thousands of immigrants´applications after the legal deadline in Prague

Fullfill the terms!

The ministry wasn`t in time to deal with almost 17 thousands of long-term residence and more than 7 thousands of permanent residence (i.e. long-term residence according to EU terminology) before the legally set deadline. The Department for Asylum and Migration Policy has 30 or 60 days to issue or prolong any visa or residence permit; however, in practice it takes many months or even years to do this. Migrants are waiting in doubt for half a year and sometimes even longer. How many applications were delivered and how many of them weren`t processed in a proper time you can see in the graph below. Part of this amount may consist of documentation of interrupted processes.

The long executive process has very negative influence on migrants`  lives and also on their integration to the Czech society. If they are for example applying for permanent residence with the purpose of family reunification, very often they can`t live together with their relatives and they have to deal with the family situation provisionally. In the case that married couple has a newborn child during the long period of processing the residence application, the baby is coming to an uncertain space. The baby cannot obtain any residence status because the one of its parents are still not being processed. It makes difficult or even impossible any travels (to see for example the rest of their family abroad). You can hear more details in a radio feature about family whose children was waiting more than year to get a visa here (available in Czech only).

Other complication is an obligation to pay commercial insurance until processing the permanent residence. “It`s 700 CZK per month, but it`s not complex insurance, it`s just for emergency situations” says Lída from Russia. “Any Foreigner has to buy the complex insurance at least for 4 months. I still hope they`ll give me the permanent residence permission and I`ll get classical public insurance. That`s why I prolong my commercial insurance always only for one month,” she explains.

In the meantime, migrants are receiving only so called bridging visa, which must be constantly (every three month) prolonged. Very often things move only at the moment, when the migrant hire an advocate and write an accusation.

Oksana experienced how it feels to live in the meanspace of bridging visa: “Every three months I had to go to the department office for another bridging visa, it took me a whole day.  Moreover my passport is almost full and there is no space for other bridging labels. I will have to go back to Ukraine to get new passport. And it really won`t be cheap,” she explains. “Above that I couldn`t invite my parents for example” she adds.

The residence is connected to other obligations and rights, for example self-employers have to prolong their trade license and health care insurance every three months (according to the date stated in the bridging visa). Dana (the name was edited) also experienced this procedure: she was waiting for prolonging her residence for almost 2 years. “It takes a lot of time when you have to manage everything every three months again and again. Recently, I came to trade license office a day later because the date on the visa came on Sunday. They didn`t prolong my trade license and I had to create a new one and pay another thousand of crowns (i.e. approximately 40 Euros). But I live in the Czech Republic already for 13 years!

All the agenda related to the residences longer than 90 days is processed by Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of Interior since January 2011. In the past, it belonged to the Foreign Police. The Foreign Police used to be criticized for very long queues and indecent conditions of waiting for the applicants. With the transfer of agenda to the Ministry, they claimed to be a pleasant institution and to change all the previously criticized practices. However, the change brought ever more serious problem – delays in dealing with applications which are basically against what even the law says. The Ombudsman was pointing out to these delays already in 2011; this situation is discussed also with representatives of Ministry of the Interior in Committee for the Rights of Foreigners.

Ministry is arguing that they had to solve deficits of Foreign Police`s work and new personnel situation at first. They are hiring new stuff especially in Prague, where the situation is critical unlike in other regions. According to the office, the agenda associated with implementing of biometrics and also with anticorruption measures (according to which applications must be processed by different people than those who are accepting them) is increasing at the same time. The amount of submitted applications in the case of permanent residence is also increasing, because those who came at the moment of economic boom are now fulfilling one of the main compulsory conditions: that of 5 years of stay.

After the criticism and debates, Ministry of the Interior is trying to solve this situation by recruitment of new employers. According to the ministerial secretary Vladimír Řepka, personnel capacities in the area of residence agenda were increased by 98 people in Prague. Practical impact of these measures is not known yet, last statistics came from June.

However, thousands of foreigners are still living in insecurity so far. The symbolic aspect of this issue is especially dramatic: if the main state institution which deals with all the immigration and integration agenda is not fulfilling its legal duties, what impression will the incoming migrants get?

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