published: 10.01.2013, 20:35 | updated: 10.01.2013 20:45:32
Prague - The number of foreigners based in the Czech Republic has been growing, but only 2000 applicants are annually granted citizenship and Czech authorities reject more applicants than other EU countries, according to the Eurostat, the Czech Statistical Office (CSU) and the Interior Ministry.
At present, foreigners form over 4 percent of the Czech population.
The Chamber of Deputies has started to discuss a new bill on citizenship.
Representatives of Czech organisations providing aid to foreigners criticise some parts of the new citizenship bill. They say the conditions for granting citizenship are made even stricter and clerks have a stronger say in the decision making. The Ombudsman Office expressed reservations about the bill, too.
But the authors of the bill argue that the new bill simplifies the asylum granting procedure in many cases.
Experts appreciate that the bill allows for dual citizenship. The bill also improves the position of the second generation of immigrants who can claim citizenship and it sets certain deadlines.
In 2011, Czech citizenships was granted to 1936 foreigners, including 378 Slovaks. According to official data, 436,400 migrants lived in the country at the end of 2011 and over 198,000 of them had permanent residence there.
In 2010, 1495 foreigners received citizenship and 190,000 of 425,300 migrants had permanent residence in the Czech Republic.
Czech citizenship may be granted to a foreigner who has had permanent residence in the country for at least five years and has been based here, who had not been sentenced for a crime during this period, who can speak Czech, pays taxes and insurance and gives up his current citizenship.
"Citizenship is considered a reward for integration (in the Czech Republic). The West can see it the other way round - as a better opportunity for integration," lawyer and activist Pavel Cizinsky said.
He said the Czech Republic imposes the strictest criteria on foreigners in the European Union.
The Czechs granted the lowest number of citizenships in relation to the number of foreigners based in the country, said lawyer Martina Stepankova, from the Advisory centre for citizenship, civic and human rights.
Along with Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey, the Czechs have the lowest number of citizenships granted in relation to its population.
According to Eurostat, the naturalisation level is the lowest in the Czech Republic, with O.25 citizenship granted per 100 foreigners. The EU average is 2.5 citizenship granted per 100 migrants.
The activists note that while the number of migrants with Czech permanent residence in growing, the number of citizenships granted remains more or less the same as only few foreigners apply for citizenship.
According to the NGOs, the interest may be low because of the strict conditions, a nontransparent procedure and the need to give up one´s current citizenship.
Lower house member Jeronym Tejc (Social Democrats, CSSD), who will present the bill to the house´s constitutional and legal committee next week, said he would propose that the discussion on the bill be extended by 30 days. Tejc said he expects the lawmakers would not reach agreement on the bill.
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