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For two years, Klavdija and Vera searched the archives in two countries. They managed to gather enough materials to build a pedigree – proof that although they were born in Russia, they have Czech roots.
Even before the war in Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Klavdija and Vera, their mother and daughter, confirmed their Czech origins and described them as so-called compatriots. In January 2022, they were to receive visas. Two months later, the Department of the Interior Ministry denied them permanent residence, as did other citizens of the Russian Federation. The war began.
“The paradox is that the mother’s brother and his family, as citizens of Ukraine, could apply to the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic for permanent residence on the basis of Czech origin. But not us, because we are Russians, “Klavdija told the Connexionblog in March.
Following the change in the government resolution, their situation was only partially resolved. “My husband and minor children cannot apply to the Czech consulate in Moscow, the embassy is forbidden to accept them,” Klavdija added after the change.
Her family is among many others who are fully feeling the effects of the sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus, no matter how hard they try to prove that they have nothing to do with Putin’s or Lukashenko’s regime. In recent days, dozens of them have also turned to the List of News.
Natalya, Daria, Vladimir
Sick Belarusian mother Natalye will soon end her long-term stay in the Czech Republic. “She is 83, she is after surgery and she is very ill, she needs the care that her husband and I provide here,” Natalye describes for the Connexionblog. However, she was unable to secure her mother’s long-term stay.
“My husband and I have a permanent residence in the Czech Republic and have lived here for 17 years. We have Belarusian citizenship, even if we do not identify with the country of our citizenship at all, “he says, adding that he does not know what to do. Should she send her sick mother “home” and hope that the situation will soon improve…?
“In my opinion, this is nothing but discrimination on the basis of a passport. In the war, we clearly support Ukraine, by contributing to charities, both my husband and I are doing humanitarian purchases of food and essentials, we have it based on banking, you will find a lot of anti-war posts on our social networks. But from the Czech point of view, am I also an aggressor? ”He asks.
Without waiting for an answer, she adds that she cannot return to Belarus with her mother. “I have a business here, an employee, a kindergarten child. In addition, due to my activity on social networks and my view of the political situation, it is not even safe, “he adds.
Daria comes from Siberia. A year ago, she became a member of a scientific institute in Brno, and due to her work she decided to move to the Czech Republic with her whole family. First she left alone, her husband and six-year-old son were due to arrive soon. But their arrival was thwarted by a pandemic. And then Putin’s aggression stood in the way.
“In October last year, my family applied to the Czech embassy for a long-term visa. In general, such requests are processed within three months, in a very complex case – and this is certainly not ours – within four months. Prior to the invasion, the requests were processed for as long as five months. And on February 24, the Russians were banned from all visas (except humanitarian). At the moment, I can’t reunite with my family for more than a year, “she told the Connexionblog.
Fear for her family eventually forced her to return to Siberia. “My family was and is against the current government, it took part in demonstrations, it supported Navalny (imprisoned opposition leader, editor’s note). Now I am very afraid that I will end up in prison, because under the new law it is easily possible. But I’m also afraid to leave my son. My son is bilingual and has already started learning Czech, “he adds.
Vladimir is a citizen of the Russian Federation with a permanent residence in the Czech Republic, where he has lived since 1996. He lacks his Russian wife in the Czech Republic, all the more so since he was granted disability after the accident and has no one to take care of him.
His requests were unsuccessful before the war. “I’m basically half-blind after the accident and I need a wife here. After our wedding in 2020, we put together all the papers needed for a visa, but we received a message that we did not fit into the quotas. I commuted between Russia and the Czech Republic and tried to solve it somehow. Well, and it started to go to war, “he adds, adding that he feels at the end at the moment.
“Nice but illegal”
Before the war, lawyer Igor Žižko dealt with the fate of foreigners who could not meet their loved ones in the Czech Republic. He himself is of Belarusian origin and since the first day of the war he has provided free advice not only to Ukrainians on the run.
“I emigrated to the Czech Republic in 1996 and in 2003 I obtained Czech citizenship. I graduated from the Faculty of Law here and make a living as a lawyer, “says Igor Žižko for Seznam Zprávy.
He recently experienced the situation in which his clients found themselves. His mother and grandmother stayed in Belarus. “Our mother has been taking care of her sick mother in Belarus for the last 20 years. But her grandmother died in March. We planned that after the mourning ceremony, our mother would move in with us, she was seriously ill herself, “he outlined his story.
However, his plans were thwarted by a resolution adopted by the government on March 2. At that time, it was decided to stop receiving and processing applications for visas and long-term and permanent residence permits of nationals of the Republic of Belarus. “At the same time, however, it completely neglected a large group of EU family members,” adds Žižko.
Based on the resolution of 25 February, his mother, although a family member of a Czech and EU citizen, did not receive a visa.
“Even though such a procedure was in direct conflict with Directive 2004/38 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas, Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 establishing a Union Code on the rules governing cross-border visas movement of persons, and Act No. 326/1999 Coll., the Act on the Residence of Foreigners in the Territory, ”objects the lawyer.
The official decided whether or not to apply a European regulation. This is something completely absurd.
His efforts to reach out to ministers, officials and members of the government went unanswered. However, the government amended the resolution at the end of March, effective April 1. And this time she was partly thinking of family members.
“If the official judges it impartially, I see no problem why our mother can’t get a visa now. Her pension is a little over half the subsistence level in the Czech Republic, so every person at least a reasonable person will understand that it is impossible to live with dignity. Plus, she’s really sick. So I can’t imagine the refusal, “he adds, even though he knows that the same documents have not been enough to approve a humanitarian visa.
He has a common sense of government resolutions.
“If there is a European directive, the Czech state is obliged to transpose it into national law. The European directive is reflected, for example, in the Act on the Residence of Foreigners in the Czech Republic. However, the government resolution of 2 March was not issued on the basis of a power of attorney from the Act on the Residence of Foreigners in the Czech Republic. It was only an internal decision of the government, which instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to draw up a specific measure that would be implemented into the Czech legal order so that it would become the rule. However, such a rule cannot be created because it would be contrary to a European directive, so it was left only to the oral instruction of the Minister. “
“When I called the ministry and asked who was deciding on the exceptions, everyone referred me to the minister. Of course, when I asked to meet him directly, I was refused. In the end, it turned out that only the visa department official decided. So, in fact, the official decides whether or not to apply the European regulation. This is something completely absurd, “adds Žižko.
After pressure, the government eventually changed the resolution, which was appreciated not only by family members, but also by those who were waiting for the so-called blue cards in the Czech Republic.
“I understand that anyone can make a mistake. As an expert, however, it strikes me that the professional apparatus should have alerted the minister and the government to the fact that we have a European directive and a charter of fundamental rights and freedoms that guarantees the right to family, which includes the right to meet. They should have pointed out that it was nice what they had invented, but it was illegal. It is incomprehensible to me that this has happened, “he concludes.
List The lawyer’s reports briefed several cases of people who turned to the newsroom for help. In the vast majority of cases, these Russians and Belarusians have no choice but to apply for a humanitarian visa.
“There is no exception to obtaining an ‘ordinary’ Schengen visa for compatriots, unless you try for a humanitarian reason. In that case, it will depend on the human factor that will assess their reasons, “says Igor Žižko about these cases.
A humanitarian visa is also a starting point for those who face sanctions after returning to Russia or Belarus, for example for anti-war activities in the Czech Republic.
In order to obtain this type of visa, the person concerned must prove that he or she is in real danger after returning to his or her homeland.
“What this evidence can be – it’s probably hard to imagine anyone bringing confirmation of their participation in a demonstration waving a flag. However, an affidavit from his friends or relatives, for example, that the police have used violence against the person may be helpful. A detention protocol may be used. Therefore, anything can serve as evidence, however, it should rather be in writing, “Žižko recommends.
“Personally, I also encounter cases where a Czech husband is in the Czech Republic and his wife cannot leave Russia for a year because her visa is repeatedly refused, without clear reasons. After the last attempt at a visa, she was refused on the grounds that she was to endanger the security of the Czech Republic, “she describes one of her cases.
List Reports in the past also reported similar fates, and they did not always have a happy ending: “Personally, I see a problem in the fact that the Czech Republic once set rules that it does not want foreigners here. It was an unwritten rule, however, it became such a spirit of the Act on the Residence of Foreigners in the Czech Republic. And in fact, those officials who decide not to issue a visa have a lot of tools to refuse a visa. We can debate whether or not it is reasonable to want foreigners here, however, to this day the politics of the Czech Republic insist that we do not want foreigners in our country and it does not matter what kind of foreigners they are, “believes Žižko.
He adds that cases where visas are not issued within the legal deadline are not isolated. However, defending is not very important.
“The state has no sanctions in place for itself. This can only be effectively challenged by an action for inaction. However, even if the court decides that the office should perform an act, it de facto ends, because no sanctions follow, “he explains.
“It’s all about human factors – how will an official handle your request if you sue him? Every action evokes a reaction, “he adds.
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of March 31:
We have long supported and continue to support Belarusian civil society, human rights defenders and political prisoners. Unfortunately, most active human rights defenders in prison are imprisoned in Belarus (over 1,100 political prisoners) or have been forced to emigrate. Russian citizens. As in the case of Russian citizens who could be persecuted in their country for their views, we also thought of Belarusian citizens and introduced an exception. That is, we continue to issue visas to Belarusian citizens who are being systematically persecuted in their country and face imprisonment for their active resistance to the Belarusian regime. We issue this visa according to capacity. A visa can be issued in cases where the applicant is demonstrably in danger due to repression, resistance to the regime or its criticism, or in cases where there is an acute danger or persecution for political or other reasons. The issuance of a visa in the above situation must be confirmed by a credible source and sufficiently proven, with the consent of the Minister. Russia and Belarus continue. It is part of our pressure on the regimes there. We are doing everything in our power, both towards the citizens of Belarus and Russia, and especially Ukraine. We are one of the most active countries in the EU. The primary problem is the policy of the Belarusian regime, which has been systematically violating human rights for a long time and supporting Russia in its aggression against Ukraine. This is where the pressure of the Belarusian citizens should go.