The Czech Republic on Monday has announced it would stop taking in asylum seekers under the EU relocation program. Other countries in Eastern Europe have also refused to accept refugees despite the joint EU-agreement to ease the situation in Italy and Greece.
The decision to stop taking in refugees was announced by the Czech Republic's Interior Minister Milan Chovanec on Monday. According to the EU relocation scheme of September 2015, the Czech Republic was supposed to take in 2,600 refugees from Italy and Greece. So far, the country has only taken in 12 from Greece as a part of the deal.
"Due to the aggravated security situation and the dysfunctionality of the whole system, the government approved a proposal to halt this system for the Czech Republic," Chovanec said at a news conference in Prague. "This means the Czech Republic will not be asking for migrants to be relocated from Greece and Italy," he concluded.
Anti migrant sentiments
The Czech Republic's decision to stop taking in more asylum seekers under the scheme is in line with the policies of other prominent Eastern EU states. Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have refused to take in a single migrant under the program. There is also a general anti migrant feeling in many Central European countries, as suggested by the 2016 Freedom House report titled "Central Europe's Faceless Strangers: The Rise of Xenophobia". Fewer than 30 percent of people surveyed in Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed with the statement "Our country should help refugees" compared to respondents in Sweden, Spain and Germany, where at least 60 percent agreed.
The decision made by the Czech Republic precedes legislative elections in October this year and presidential ones taking place in 2018. Czech President Milos Zemen, who is running for reelection, has frequently used anti-migrant rhetoric in his speeches. In November 2015, when many refugees were traveling through Central Europe, he said that the refugees are "criminals" and they are seeking to "subjugate Europe" to Islam. Noting the anti-migrant sentiments in the Czech population, politicians like Milos Zemen are trying to maintain support from the voters by steering the country away from programs that assist migrants.with AP/Reuters