Czech interior minister vows to tackle refugee benefit fraudsters

Elena Trofimchuk, who fled the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, helps a Ukrainian refugee sort out train tickets at Bucharest's North Railway Station in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, April 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Chisato Tanaka)
By Kristýna Čtvrtlíková
4 Min Read

The assistance system for refugees from Ukraine in the Czech Republic is likely to change, with the interior ministry wanting to tighten passport controls for people coming from Ukraine or change the form of benefits.

The steps respond to the problems associated with the migration of Roma from Ukraine. Some run so-called social benefits tourism in the Schengen area or have Ukrainian and Hungarian passports, an issue which Interior Minister Vít Rakušan intends to discuss with his Hungarian and Ukrainian counterparts.

More than 300,000 refugees have arrived in the Czech Republic since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Rakušan emphasized that dishonesty concerns only the absolute minimum of them and is only in the hundreds of individuals.

“The vast majority of people who came to Czechia just needed help because bombs were falling on their houses. I’m a little sorry that the system of successful aid that the Czech Republic has shown accentuates the few dishonest people, but that’s why there is a need to take intense action against them,” he added.

The minister wants to take action, especially against Ukrainian Roma who live in Hungary but travel to the Czech Republic and other EU countries for social benefits. Rakušan will therefore ask the Ukrainian police, for example, to take action against organized crime in Zakarpatska Oblast, where there is no war, yet the locals travel abroad for benefits.

“We are trying to map the situation in Ukraine. We could also check passports to see if they contain a stamp that indicates that the person has crossed the Ukrainian border. That will, of course, apply to all people coming from Ukraine to the Czech Republic. We will not make an exception here,” he stated, adding that the tightening of passport controls should start next week.

“I will also talk to the Hungarian minister to ensure that the controls of those who come and have a Hungarian passport are not formal but are honest and as fast as possible. If Hungarian control is slow, people gather at stations and wait long,” the Czech minister said.

He admitted that if only a formal inspection took place, the correct result would often not be found.

“If it turns out that the check system is going consistently and that the Hungarian side is helping us to do so, then I think that at that moment, the motivation of those who, in my view, are organizing this fraud will disappear. In many cases, it will happen, not in all,” Rakušan said.

According to the minister, there is a uniform system of benefits in the Czech Republic. Each recipient is registered, which ensures an individual cannot receive payment more than once.

“The complex European humanitarian system would be ideal,” the minister said. “At the European level, we have been drawing attention to this for about a month and a half. There is a promise that the European information system will finally be running from May 31,” he said.

In the interview, Rakušan also emphasized that the Czech government provides only temporary protection for refugees, which they cannot demand throughout the whole year. He said that many refugees were already working in the country and were trying to find accommodation by themselves.

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