Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stop the discrimination against foreigners

Article by The Prague Post:

April 16th, 2008 issue

We were at the Foreigners’ Police in Prague early one morning recently, crushed in an anxious mob of people in the first-floor hallway. The hallway leads to a ticket dispenser that, at least in theory, guarantees you a meeting with a bureaucrat in the office, the busiest of its kind in the Czech Republic.

A colleague of ours set her child down for about 30 seconds to get her cell phone out of her purse. Tired of waiting for hours, the crowd chose that moment to surge forward, almost knocking down the little girl, who started crying loudly.

A police officer berated our colleague in front of the crowd. He said if she ever brought a child to the Foreigners’ Police again he would report her to social services, which might take her child away, since she wasn’t being a good mother.

All this came after a long, nightmarish wait in a mob outside trying get in the building. Later in the morning, the numbered tickets proved to be useless, as people spontaneously formed lines at the bureaucrats’ desks, and were taken care of with no regard for numerical order. By that time, the police had left.

If you’re a foreigner trying to do the right thing in the Czech Republic, you know this story already, or some variation of it. It’s part of a larger pattern that makes it hard to believe this country isn’t pursuing a deliberate strategy of making foreigners feel as unwelcome as possible.
Giving the government money is never a problem. We didn’t have to wait even one minute to file a tax return, or register to pay social security fees. Buying private health insurance (foreigners are often seen as a potential burden on social services) took about five minutes.

But God forbid that foreigners should try to do something as simple as, say, own a car. Under the city’s onerous new parking regulations, any permanent resident of the district can get an annual parking permit for 700 Kč ($43.80). But, if you’re not a permanent resident, even with a proper visa and a flat lease in hand, that same permit will cost you 36,000 Kč.

In addition to insulting, degrading and unnecessary, this strikes us as incredibly short-sighted. As the Czech population ages and more educated young people leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere, foreign workers offer a valuable addition to the labor pool. The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry has implicitly acknowledged this with a program encouraging foreigners to apply to be permanent residents.

But there’s already discussion about ending that program.

This country has a well-deserved reputation for xenophobia. It would be smarter for the people running the government to court outsiders instead of driving them away, so they can pay taxes and social security and health insurance fees.

And dare we raise the question of basic fairness? No law-abiding resident should have to endure the mob scene at the Foreigners’ Police, or negotiate to get his car out of an impound lot for a simple parking infraction.


Anonymous said...

The Czech Republic is a country full of stupidity, arrogance, ignorance and illogicality. Whatever you try to do there it is as complicated as possible so you end up disgusted and sick of trying anything. Applying for a drivers license, SSN (or birth number or whatsoever they call it) or founding a company it in the Czech Republic it is a real joke. Who had never experienced it he would not believe it. I tried once and I will never try again. Once the country was at least beautiful to visit. Old buildings and history is gorgeous, but dealing with people and authorities it is a shame and now it is even more expensive than elsewhere while the quality of services is low. So what's the deal here?

Damyan Twonine said...

Indeed! All of it it's bitter TRUTH about this messy country like Czech which still has retained that POST-SOVIETIC communist approach to people... Lots of problems with the social background are troubling the governance, which cannot find best solutions once and for many decades forth - changes the LAWS every year and treating foreigners as cattle!
I've worked for 4 years now in Prague and had to go through HELL to renew my annual visas. Now i'm in the process of extending my anual visa - and it's worst ever! They've moved the office where you apply for the Visa - to the furthest location possible - in the middle of a field close to outskirts of Prague where you need to change 4 means of transport to get! Moreover - when you get there you need to stand 5 hours in the queue - to get a NEGATIVE response - saying - ''you have the visa ready but one document is still on the way - so we will call you"". Outrageous! And only from the articles in the Internet I found out that due to RECESSION and 9.5% unemployment rate in CZ they do not issue any more visas to 3rd countries nationals! Discrimination!