Prague - People who have fled their countries to avoid wars or oppression do not consider the Czech Republic an ideal place to apply for asylum.
Together with Estonia, Spain and Portugal, the Czech Republic has the lowest number of asylum applications per inhabitant of all EU member states. And while the figure continued to decrease in the Czech Republic, neighboring Austria, Slovakia and Poland recorded a relatively significant increase of asylum applications in 2012, according to Eurostat data.
"The situation has been the same for many years: there are very few asylum applicants, in the past two years their number was the the lowest ever recorded in the Czech Republic," said Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) director Martin Rozumek.
The situation of most asylum applicants in the Czech Republic is unacceptable, said Rozumek, explaining that asylum seekers have to wait years for the Interior Ministry to process their applications. The ministry's decisions are often reversed by courts, and the process starts all over again.
"Moreover, during the first 12 months of their stay in the Czech Republic, they are not allowed to work," said Rozumek.
According to Association for Integration and Migration director Magda Faltova, the first and most important reason for the low number of asylum applications in the Czech Republic is the EU's so-called Dublin II Regulation from 2003, which allows refugees to apply for asylum only in one EU member state - in most cases it is the country where they entered the EU.
Faltova said that refugees prefer to apply for asylum in the countries that already have ethnic communities they belong to. Also, asylum proceedings tend to last longer and have a higher rejection rate in the Czech Republic than in western EU members. For these two reasons, refugees tend to avoid the Czech Republic, said Faltova.
Furthermore, Czech public opinion on refugees -- and foreigners in general -- is not exactly favorable. According to an opinion poll conducted by the CVVM agency in March 2012, 50 percent of the Czech population believe there are too many foreigners in the country. An even higher proportion of people believe that foreigners who live in the Czech Republic contribute to the unemployment rate (64 percent) and criminality (62 percent) or spread diseases (54 percent).
Every tenth Czech citizen believes that foreigners should not be allowed to stay long-term in the Czech Republic.
The asylum seekers who decide to stay in the Czech Republic tend to be older than in other EU member states - in the last quarter of 2012, 43 percent of them were between 35 and 64 years of age. This is the highest proportion in the EU, where the average figure is around 20 percent. In neighboring Slovakia, 75 percent of asylum seekers are between 18 and 34 years of age. Most of the Czech Republic's asylum seekers are Ukrainians, in Slovakia the largest group are Somalis.
The proportion of asylum seekers with children is also deeply below the EU average.