How many Ukrainian refugees are actually in Czechia? The number keeps changing

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 350,000 newcomers in Czechia have obtained relevant visas

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Záviš Dobiašovský
Refugees that fled the war in Ukraine fill in the paperwork to get registered at the congress center in Prague, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The dramatic refugee wave from war-torn Ukraine has left Czechia unsure how many refugees are even in the country. The government is still looking for ways to calculate the number of refugees, but is losing track of where they are in the country.

In mid-May, estimates from the regions spoke of 200,000 refugees. A few days later, interior minister Vít Rakušan talked about 280,000. It also turned out that the whereabouts of many of them remain unkonwn, which resulted in the Czech Ministry of the Interior sending checks to 1,600 addresses where at least some refugees were supposed to be staying.

Ascertaining the number of refugees in the country and their distribution within it is crucial for successful integration, as these numbers relate to the issue of capacity in schools, the labor market, and the housing market. However, as Czechia is not a border country of the Schengen area and has no information about crossing the border, another obstacle is multi-entry visas. However, estimates about the movement of refugees within the country are also not accurate.

On May 15, Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan spoke of 200,000 refugees, which was a significant leap, as it would mean the departure of around 140,000 people to other countries. As Rakušan stated on Czech Television, it was an estimate based on the regions. But a week and a half later, the number was fundamentally different. According to the minister, there are still around 280,000 people in Czechia.

That is an estimate based on a pilot project. It inspected hundreds of addresses at which refugees were thought to be staying. Based on the Customs Information System data, inspectors selected over 7,000 refugees who had their residence registered in specific municipalities. The inspection eventually focused on almost 6,000 people with temporary protection, who were to move to about 1,600 addresses.

“As part of the residence checks, the officials found that a total of 1,472 foreigners, which is 20 percent of the total number checked, do not stay permanently at the address entered in the CIS in connection with temporary protection,” Interior Ministry Spokesman Ondřej Krátoška told Echo24 news outlet.

After talks with the regional representatives on Tuesday, Rakušan said that about 75 to 80 percent of the 350,000 refugees who registered in the country also reside in the Czech Republic.

The interior ministry intends to specify the numbers according to the number of benefits issued and, in particular, the enrollment of children in schools. According to Rakušan, the ministry will find out where the Ukrainians work, how long they have employment contracts, and how long they want to stay in the Czech Republic. On Friday, Czechia granted temporary protection to 900 refugees from Ukraine, 112 fewer than a week ago.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 357,566 Ukrainians have obtained relevant visas, according to data from the ministry. Since the beginning of the war, 264,846 people have reported to the foreign police more than three months ago, with 2,173 more on Friday. Children under the age of 15, which account for a third of refugees from Ukraine, do not have to report.

In the comparison of regions, most refugees are in Prague. According to current statistics, 82,626 arrivals from Ukraine reported their stay here. The capital is facing a shortage of places for refugees. Therefore, a second tent town should be built in the suburbs especially for refugees who are not entitled to temporary protection in the Czech Republic. It will be for 150 people, which is the same as the first tent town, which currently accommodates 111 people.

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