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Prague, Nov 3 (CTK) – A dozen of Czech expatriates in Venezuela, who want to leave the country due to permanent unrest or poverty, have turned to the Czech Foreign Ministry in search of their possible settlement in the homeland of their ancestors, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.

If arriving next year, as expected, they will be accommodated in the Vltava Hotel near the Orlik water reservoir, central Bohemia, which has been run by the Interior Ministry and often hosts expatriates returning from abroad, the daily writes.

In the past months and years, the hotel gradually hosted hundreds of ethnic Czechs coming from countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia and Romania.

Next year, a group of ethnic Czechs might come from Venezuela, a country tormented by soaring inflation and balancing on the brink of a civil war, LN writes.

In Venezuela, about 500 inhabitants claim being ethnic Czechs, according to estimates. They include offspring of the well-known Tugendhat family from Brno and Leo Rafael Reif, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), whose father fled to Venezuela before the occupation of the Czech Lands by Hitler’s Germany in 1939, the daily writes.

In all, several waves of emigrants from Central Europe came to Latin America in the past.

“Some members of the Czech minority in Venezuela have shown interest in settling in the Czech Republic. We are closely watching the situation and remain in contact with them,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Irena Valentova is quoted as saying.

For the time being, the ministry has tackled the difficult situation of Czech Venezuelans at a distance. The Czech embassy in Caracas was closed down six years ago, which is why a consul has been coming to Venezuela from the Czech embassy in Havana three times a year, the paper writes.

It is the Czech embassies in Cuba or Colombia where the Czech expatriates have to apply for a return permit. If proving their ancestors’ Czech origin, their application is admitted to the government’s resettlement programme, supervised by the Interior Ministry and operating since 2015, LN writes.

No official application has been addressed to Prague so far, however, mainly because the return from Venezuela implies numerous difficulties, it writes.

“The [Czech] language, the climate, work and culture, all profoundly differ from the life we are accustomed to in Venezuela. Many members of the community that claims having Czech roots are offspring of mixed marriages, most of them do not speak Czech and have never been to Czechia. Only few families have direct contacts with their relatives in the Czech Republic,” Vladimir Sykora, head of the Venezuelan-Czech association who works as an economic analyst in Caracas, is quoted as saying.

According to Sykora, however, Venezuelans’ interest in moving to the Czech Republic may quickly rise in case the Venezuelan government decided to close the borders.

A total of 782 people have moved to the Czech Republic from abroad so far within the government’s programme for the return of ethnic Czechs, mainly Jews who fled the country over the Nazi threat in the 1930s. However, all of these immigrants were Ukrainians, as no one else has shown interest in it so far, LN writes.

The programme guarantees a special status to ethnic Czechs returning from abroad. They are granted a permanent residence permit opening their access to public health insurance. The Foreign Ministry covers the return flight for them and the Interior Ministry finances their accommodation in the Vltava Hotel for up to six months before they gain own housing, the daily writes.

“The adults undergo an integration course, while children can immediately start attending a Czech school. We help with the [Czech] acknowledgement of [their foreign university] diplomas, with medical checkups and filling in forms. Above all, we seek jobs and housing for the immigrants,” the paper quotes Jarmila Lomozova, deputy head of the Prague Archdiocese Charity that operates the programme on behalf of the Interior Ministry, as saying.

According to official statistics, only 150 Venezuelan nationals lived in the Czech Republic as of September 30, 2017, including 45 with a permanent residence permit.

rtj/t/kva

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