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Syrian orphans reignite Czech migration debate

The Czech Republic’s TOP 09 party has announced its intention to submit a resolution urging the government to accept 50 Syrian orphans currently living in refugee camps. The resolution comes amidst a heated debate in the country on the fate of asylum seekers.

“A civilised country should be capable of making such a symbolic humanitarian gesture,” said the deputy leader of the party, Markéta Pekarová Adamová.

A recent statement by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš refusing to take a single refugee has caused frustration within the Czech political elite. “I went into politics mainly to look after Czech citizens. Why should we be caring for Syrian orphans? People in real need fleeing conflict or persecution should find asylum closer to home, outside the European Union and not engage in asylum shopping in EU,” said the prime minister in an interview.

In spite of overall opposition to the mandatory EU quotas for resettling refugees, political figures condemned the PM’s statement, stating that closing the doors of the country to all asylum seekers is inhumane.

Pavel Telička, an independent MEP, was quoted as saying: “Such an extreme position, I think, will make the prime minister himself something of an orphan on the Czech political scene.”

Although Mr Telička believes that the rejection of EU quotas and the fight against irregular migration to be sound positions, he expressed his disappointment at the government for not considering requests for asylum and temporary protection from war-torn Syria.

Moreover, acting foreign minister Jan Hamáček tweeted that a country of 10 million people can surely find homes for 50 Syrian orphans.

Following Mr Hamáček’s tweet, the response from the citizens’ initiative in Czech Republic, Češi pomáhají (Czechs Help) confirmed the readiness of more than 50 Czech families to accept Syrian orphans.

Mr Babiš then attempted to justify his position in the argument by stating that “Syrian orphans were teenage boys, not helpless toddlers.”