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Text: Blanka Vosecká Veselá
The number of foreigners in the Czech Republic is increasing every year.
This fact is easy to calculate. The numbers would keep going up even without the war situation in Ukraine (which is still on), yet it is true that it has resulted in an unprecedented number of migrants coming to the CR. Migration brings about a lot of unarguably positive aspects as well as challenges that need systematic preparation.
One-third of all foreigners in the CR stay in the capital city of Prague, where they make up about one-fifth of the population.
This long-term situation requires a clear strategy that would help us all, foreigners and Czech citizens, to coexist peacefully.
A key process for making newcomers a part of an unfamiliar environment is integration. When successful, integration can prevent the emergence of negative social phenomena. What exactly does this term stand for, though? What are the specific integration steps and measures we can take and where to find out more about them?
There are several official strategic documents that are supposed to help the Czech Republic on its journey to successful integration of foreigners. The most significant ones are Policies for Integration created for both national and local levels. In the capital city, integration of foreigners falls within the remit of the Prague City Hall as well as individual municipal districts. They rely on the Prague City Policy for Integration of Foreigners 2022–2027 approved by the City Council in January 2022. This document is a result of collaboration of dozens of representatives of the Prague City Hall, Prague municipal districts, state and non-governmental organisations, and migrants. The Prague Policy provides a summary of the history of integration and a description of the current situation in its whole context, as well as a set of proposals for measures and recommendations for the integration of foreigners in the capital city within the next five years (the objectives cover the years 2022–2027).
The policy presents a vision of the capital city as a progressive metropolis that is able to satisfy the needs and interests of all inhabitants, its diversity and openness allows it to prosper and become a quality place for life of all residents.
The Prague Policy serves as a source of recommendations and support to individual municipal districts. Implementation of the Policy is the responsibility of the Prague City Hall’s National Minorities and Foreign Nationals Department.
It is in line with the government’s nationwide 2016 Updated Policy and even though its primary focus is on third country nationals (an official legal term used to refer to all foreigners/citizens from countries outside the EU), it also addresses EU citizens and persons staying in the CR based on a form of international protection (this group now includes a large part of Ukrainian citizens in the CR).
What are the integration steps and measures proposed by the Policy?
First of all, it is a vision of five interconnected strategic goals set to make Prague a city of equal opportunities for all its inhabitants.
What does it mean in practice and what are the qualities integration experts want to see in Prague?
- A systematic and coordinated approach to integration: the institutions and authorities in question need to know what they can and are supposed to do and have the resources and quality information to be able to make decisions.
- Open and accessible authorities that actively cooperate and learn from each other.
- Social and public services accessible for all inhabitants.
- Equal access to education of children, teenagers and adults.
- Active development of social cohesion allowing the city to be a true ‘metropolis for all’.
The Policy also outlines the plans of Prague integration policy for future years that will enhance the development of the city as a dynamic and modern metropolis. Based on the five strategic goals, it therefore defines five basic integration priorities:
The first priority is to provide the infrastructure and institutional background necessary for integration of foreigners. In other words, integration policy requires stable funding and systematic assessment of the data available. It also needs to be supported by adequate staff capacity in all fields involved in integration of foreigners.
The aim of the second priority – multi-stakeholder cooperation – is to interconnect all parties involved in integration in Prague, be it the City Hall, municipal districts, NGOs, state and academic institutions, or foreigners and foreigner associations and other Prague inhabitants.
The next priority is to develop the network of social and follow-up services for foreigners and competent staff that is well versed in practical aspects of integration and migration of foreigners and able to provide expert advice.
An equally important priority is education – both education of children and pupils with a different mother tongue and education of adult migrants. It is also necessary to focus on improving intercultural and professional competences of teaching staff.
The last priority of the Policy – mutual coexistence – reflects the necessity of communicating the issue of integration to the public and promoting a healthy social climate and community life of foreigners as well as Czech citizens. This priority also aims at preventing xenophobic sentiments and the spread of disinformation related to migrants.
The Policy provides a detailed description of the recommendations, explains the most effective ways of their implementation, and defines what we want to achieve in the area of integration of foreigners by 2027.
Some of us may say ‘Well, this is a nice theory but what does it actually mean? And what can I do to make our coexistence better and safer?’
There is a plenty of ways to help and get involved. Let’s start with the very basic. Let’s try to avoid prejudices and stereotypes. Let’s get our information from good sources. Let’s be open to new ideas and let’s not limit ourselves to small communities and social bubbles. Let’s learn from other people and try to communicate with each other. This is the only way for Prague to truly become a ‘metropolis for all’, which is actually the main aim and vision of the Prague Policy for Integration of Foreigners.
Anyone interested in the Prague integration policy who may not have the time to read the extensive document can read a brief handout with the most important summaries and references prepared by the City Hall.