“What we do for refugees will also benefit us.” Sociologists Yana Leontiyeva, Dušan Drbohlav and Štěpán Kment discuss the integration of Ukrainian war refugees.

A quarter of the 44 million Ukrainians have fled Russian aggression. So far, 300,000 of them have come to the Czech Republic, where there is already a large Ukrainian community. What has migration and integration policy in the Czech Republic looked like so far?

“Our migration and integration policies are relatively advanced compared to other post-communist countries. Our preparation and system solution are quite good. Currently, we have a standard functional model that separates migration policy from asylum, and it seems to be relatively functional,” explains social geographer Dušan Drbohlav on the How He Sees It…

It’s no secret that the Czech Republic mainly attracts migrants from Eastern European countries. “When we look at official statistics, the largest group before the new wave of refugees was Ukrainian citizens. Ukrainians were followed by citizens of Vietnam, the Russian Federation and other countries in Eastern Europe. In recent years, the economic crisis has also changed quite a bit, ”adds sociologist Yana Leontiyeva.

Labor market barriers

So far, however, economic migration has dominated in the Czech Republic. “The data shows that labor migration from Eastern European countries was generally unskilled labour. This is of course due to barriers in the labor market in terms of regulated professions, recognition of qualifications, notification and how the market favors domestic workers is a problem we still encounter today,” notes PAQ Research researcher Štěpán Kment.

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“But now a completely different cohort of people are coming to us, different from those who came here for work. It used to be that the migration mix was dominated by men, now it’s women. And that’s one thing. which the state will have to face now.”

Dušan Drbohlav is also in favor of easier employment in lower positions. “It takes a lot more effort to establish yourself in the labor market, but above all it requires nostrification, which is a big problem that we still cannot solve not only in our country but also in the EU.”

“Indeed, many newcomers have often struggled with the so-called overqualification phenomenon, accepts Yana Leontiyeva. “In the long term, I think the Czech Republic has fallen asleep in this. Unfortunately, the potential of Ukrainians who have lived here for many years has not been fully tapped to bring greater benefits to Czech society. But entering the labor market is very important, especially for He is forced to accept any job because he is simply in economic distress.

Štěpán Kment completes this burning issue from the point of view of teenagers. “Data from Meta, a company that deals with the education of refugees, indicates that half of young foreigners of high school age do not go to high school. This means that the barrier to entry into the secondary and higher education, if they live it long, is high. This, of course, has an impact on their survival, their participation in the labor market, the benefits or costs they have for our social system, and how they can develop their skills and talents.”

How long will they stay?

Will it then be possible to apply previous experience with a completely different group of immigrants to the integration of current refugees? “A crucial thing to add here is that we have no experience with war migrants, let alone in such large numbers,” Dušan Drbohlav points out. . What is happening now is truly unprecedented. »

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“It’s also important that we don’t know how long they’ll stay here. We know we need to integrate them, but we don’t know how they’re going to integrate them, whether it’s for a long period or permanently, or it will really just be a humanitarian issue for a short time and then they will go home. Also, integrating forced migrants is more difficult than integrating those who came voluntarily.”

However, according to Štěpán Kment, talking about integration can also be insensitive. “A lot of people want to come back. So war refugees now may feel a bit uneasy when they hear that they should integrate here. So it’s something that’s a voluntary process. We let’s try to prepare the state not to let them down if it turns out that they want or need to integrate.”

Dušan Drbohlav adds to the return of migrants to their country of origin that there is a so-called return myth. “If you ask almost every emigrant if they want to come back, almost everyone will say yes, but 98% of them won’t come back. So the problem is getting the final picture. But it’s also for us the opportunity to reassess and re-systematize, to simplify entry into the labor market. It means doing it to really exploit the human potential that we have here.”

We do it for us

However, Yana Leontiyeva again draws attention to the problem of the composition of incoming refugees. “We forget that it is mainly women of working age who come to us. And even here in the Czech Republic, the issue of the return of Czech women with young children to the labor market is discussed. And here we are suddenly expects a Ukrainian woman, who may not have such extensive labor market experience in her home country, to begin to establish herself perfectly in the Czech labor market and still apply her education . “

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“I think we have to be realistic here and put less pressure on these people, give them opportunities and say that the Czech Republic wants to integrate them.”

According to Dušan Drbohlav, however, time is crucial. This will determine a lot about what will happen in the integration. “In fact, paradoxically, the problems we have now with integration are somewhat mitigated by the fact that there is a shortage of labor in the labor market, and we actually find ourselves in this problem of people. The state takes advantage of the situation and fills the gaps in its labor market. The reception must be all the more welcoming, because what we are doing for the refugees now, we are actually doing for ourselves- same.”

Other topics of conversation: How much money will it take to help refugees and their integration? How will the existing Ukrainian community, which is already established in the Czech Republic, accept the new wave of refugees?

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