The Czech Republic has joined its Central European neighbors in officially announcing a withdrawal from the European Union’s 2015 migrant resettlement program.
After much criticism of the scheme, which seeks to resettle an initial 160,000 migrants from Italy and Greece across EU member states, the Czechs have finally withdrawn citing concerns over security and the ‘’dysfunctionality’’ of what has been criticized as a shambolic program.
Prague had accepted only 12 of the 1,600 migrants required by Brussels before leaving the program, which imposes quotas on all 28 member states under threat of sanction.
The resettlement scheme was the EU’s initial response to the near Biblical wave of migrants which arrived in autumn 2015 following Angela Merkel’s decision to open Germany’s borders.
In April, Czech Interior Minister, Milan Chovanec, had stated that his government would have to decide whether resistance to the EU’s quotas was worth the massive fines such a refusal would incur. On Monday, Chovanec announced their decision, a definitive withdrawal based on concerns over terrorism and the vetting of migrants, mainly Muslims from the Middle East.
The decision was supported by a majority of parties across the political spectrum, with even left-wing parties, including the Communist Party, welcoming the announcement.
Public opinion in the Czech Republic, and surrounding countries, runs very strongly against immigration, particularly from Islamic countries.
Ask the average Czech for his opinion on the matter, and you will likely hear concerns about Islamic extremism or anecdotes of ungrateful migrants turning their noses up at Czech hospitality to seek asylum in wealthier countries;
Last year, of a group of Iraqi Christians welcomed to the country in a church-run scheme, 25 cancelled their asylum applications, retrieved their passports and rented a bus to leave for Germany. Complaints about the standard of accommodation from migrants went down badly among Czechs, many of whom struggle to pay their own rents.
The country’s president, Miloš Zeman, one of the few European heads of state to have supported Donald Trump in last year’s US presidential race, has called the current wave of migrants an ‘’organized invasion’’, drawing parallels between the large-scale migration and the opening stages of the Trojan War.
The outspoken president, who recently declared his intention to stand for re-election in 2018, has criticized both the EU and Angela Merkel for their immigration policies, causing outrage in Brussels and Berlin.
In response to the Czech government’s decision, the EU’s Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, announced on Tuesday that the European Commission would next week give details on action to be taken against countries refusing to accept migrants. It is likely such sanctions will include fines of up to €250,000 per migrant refused – a high price but one, it seems, Prague is willing to pay.