As EU leaders debate Europe’s policy on migrants, NGOs and charity organizations are trying to drum up more support in aid of the millions of refugees displaced by the crisis in the Middle East. The Czech branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, which runs a humanitarian aid project in Erbil, is sending two seasoned journalists to Iraq and Syria to document the plight of people in the war-stricken region.
Czech humanitarian organisations have denounced what they describe as the ‘shameful’ level of Czech government aid in the Middle East. Around half a dozen charities made a joint statement suggesting that the Czech Republic should be capable of providing refuge to around 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Syria rather than the 70 offered asylum so far. The charities argue that the Czech Republic should feel a moral responsibility to providing refuge after so many Czech were given asylum in other countries during the Cold War. It is estimated that around 4 million have fled the conflict in Syria.
Hassan Mezian is the only Muslim legislator in the Czech Parliament. The Social Democrat senator moved to Prague from Damascus to study medicine in 1967, and, apart from spells in his native Syria and elsewhere, has spent most of his life practicing in the central Bohemian town of Litoměřice. When we met at the Senate, our conversation took in Syria, Czech Muslim life, and growing anti-Muslim populism in politics. But first I was curious to hear about Dr. Mezian’s period treating Bedouins during his military service.
The Czech Army is unaware of plans announced by President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday for a Czech field hospital for Syrian refugees to be established in Jordan. Mr. Zeman said the deployment of the field hospital had been agreed at a meeting at Prague Castle attended by senior officials, including Defence Minister Martin Stropnický. However, a senior Czech Army spokesperson said it knew nothing about the deployment, which does not figure in an approved army mandate for this year and 2016. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who was also at the Prague Castle meeting, said Mr. Stropnický had been asked to look into the possibility of such a field hospital and that further discussions on the matter were planned.
The lower house on Thursday passed a resolution supporting the strengthening of Czech humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, who are now living in camps in Jordan and Turkey. At the same time, the deputies rejected the idea of binding EU quotas for the acceptance of refugees and came out against the restriction of movement in the Schengen zone. Instead, the lower house came out in support of a joint EU effort to better protect the alliance’s outer borders. In January the cabinet accepted a proposal for the country to take in 15 families of Christian Syrians, who are now living in exile and approved a programme to help refugees directly in the affected areas.
Jordan and the Czech Republic also signed on Wednesday a memorandum of cooperation on civil nuclear power. The memorandum was signed by the Czech state institute for nuclear research and its Jordanian equivalent. Jordan at the moment has no nuclear plants but is seeking to build both a small experimental test reactor and later a full blown power plant. The country would like to exploit the uranium reserves on its territory. The Czech Republic operates two nuclear power plants.
Czech President Miloš Zeman presented the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, with the Czech Republic’s highest honour, the Order of the White Lion, in Amman on Wednesday. The recognition was given for the king’s opposition to terrorism, and in particular to Islamic State. King Abdullah II is the first Arab head of state to be awarded the Czech honour since the creation of the state in 1993. Zeman invited the king to visit the Czech Republic and encouraged Jordan to base its own embassy in the country. During the visit a memorandum of security cooperation was signed between the two countries. President Zeman is due to end his three day visit to Jordan and fly onto the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
President Miloš Zeman will award the King of Jordon, Abdullah II, the Czech Republic’s highest honour during a trip to the country starting Monday. The Order of the White Lion will be presented in recognition of relations between the Czech Republic and Jordan and the latter country’s fight against terrorism,specifically the Islamic State, the president’s spoksesman Jiří Ovčáček told Czech Television. President Zeman will stay in Jordan until Wednesday and then fly onto the United Arab Emirates.
President Miloš Zeman is to visit Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in the course of next week, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told journalists in Prague. In Jordan the Czech head of state is scheduled to meet with King Abdallah II and also speak with Czech doctors active in the country within the humanitarian programme Medevac. In the United Arab Emirates President Zeman will be received by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The Czech government has agreed to take in around 70 refugees of the Syrian conflict, currently situated in Jordan. The decision, which was unanimously approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, has met with mixed reactions from opposition politicians – some say the country should do far more to help the victims of Syria’s civil war; others fear the economic and cultural burdens of taking in people from such a dangerous part of the world.