Since 1990, the Czech Republic has been an immigration country and the number of foreign nationals has been the highest of the post-socialist countries in the region (non-EU nationals consisted 2.8% of the population in 2017). The main routes of immigration were from post-socialist countries (Ukraine and Russian Federation) and Vietnam as a consequence of cooperation during communist era. Moreover, the share of foreigners in the population is growing in the last decades.
Migration in Czech Republic has mostly been a labour one since the Czech Republic is an industrial country currently with low unemployment. Foreigners live mostly in Prague and western regions of the Czech Republic due to both economical and historical reasons. The number of asylum applicants and refugees instead is very low (4 159 asylum applicant and 941 granted refugees in the years 2014- 2016) showing a discrepancy between the perpetual need for workforce and a generally low willingness to accept migrants expressed by politicians.
After a liberal period of migration policy in the 1990s, policies became stricter but, after 2008, also more integration-oriented. The most visible integration effort is foundation of State integration centres providing services to foreigners in all regions. The Czech migration policy is often criticized both by non-governmental organizations and by associations of employers for being too restrictive and highly centralized. Alongside a critical view of the policies at central level, lack of public services (especially on regional level) is perceived as hindering factor to promote an integration policy of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. For example, lack of social housing is a general problem in the Czech Republic, so foreign workers often inhabited substandard hostels and dormitories. Health insurance represents another problem. In contrast to EU nationals who are covered by public health insurance, third-country nationals have an obligation to obtain a commercial policy. As a consequence, the insurance contracts are full of exclusions, and different prices are paid by different age categories of foreigners. Commercial insurance intermediaries often rely on foreigners’ lack of knowledge of the Czech law. Finally, the chaotic and loosely regulated system of subcontracting via employment agencies creates conditions for labour exploitation and lowering standards of safety and security.
If you want to know more about Czech Republic Legal framework for the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum applicants into labour markets, please have a look here at our Czech Republic Chapter in our WP2 Report (pp. 98-128)
Authors of the Czech Report are Karel Čada, Karina Hoření, Dino Numerato - Charles University