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Friday, 12 November 2010

In the Czech Republic, asylum applications processed at snail's pace

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Source: ČTK

The official deadline for answering an asylum application is three months but some refugees have been waiting for years for the decision on their asylum, lawyer Eva Hola, from the Czech Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU), has said.

They have to wait so long even though the number of refugees applying for asylum in the Czech Republic has been dropping, Hola noted.

The number of applicants for Czech asylum has been decreasing since 2004. While 1878 applications were registered in 2007, it was 1656 in 2008 and 1258 last year.

After the three months, a refugee usually receives letters that postpone the deadline by which the decision is to be made, Hola said.

She pointed to the case of Cuban political prisoner Rolando Jimenez Pozada who was recently welcomed to the Czech Republic by Interior Minister Radek John.

"As a lawyer representing refugees in their asylum proceedings, I am shocked by the totally different attitude of the Interior Ministry to all the other refugees. Why other refugees are not welcomed as cordially as the prisoner from Cuba?" Hola asked.

 Pozada arrived at Prague airport on October 26. Representatives of the Interior Ministry promised that he and his family would be granted asylum, provided with accommodation and helped with integration into Czech society.

"Other refugees, too, should be treated with respect like Mr Pozada - at least the decision on their asylum should be made by the proper date. The pompous welcoming of the Cuban prisoner otherwise becomes a political gesture that is not concerned with the destiny of dozens of other refugees in the Czech Republic," Hola said.

Pozada spent seven years for criticism of the political situation in Cuba. He is one of the 53 political prisoners whom the Cuban regime has decided to release on condition that they leave Cuba.

The Czech Republic has long been criticising Cuba for violation of human rights. The Czechs declared their preparedness to admit up to ten people who will have to leave Cuba after release from prison.

Hola said many of her clients from Syria, Congo or Iran were tortured and imprisoned in their homeland like Pozada but they had to wait many months and even years in Czech refugee camps.

"When they ask why their asylum proceeding takes so long and when exactly the decision will be made, they do not get a clear answer," Hola said.

She recalled that one refugee, an Iraqi who escaped from his homeland to avoid persecution, complained with the interior minister about his asylum proceedings lasting three years and the ministry told him it could not make a hasty decision.
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