It’s been a long time coming, but Prague is steadily becoming a more multicultural capital city. Although the last few years has actually seen a fluctuation in the numbers of foreigners entering the Czech Republic, there are currently about 433,000 foreigners residing in Czech Republic, with about 150,000 in Prague. Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Russian and Slovak citizens comprise the majority of this immigrant population. This all means there is a growing need for assistance with the various processes required for integration into Czech society.
Since learning to speak Czech tends to be one of the biggest barriers to the full integration of foreigners, an increasing number of immigrant-oriented NGOs have established free or low cost Czech language courses as part of their foreigner integration services. Other important services include free legal and social counseling, assistance with employment, health insurance, and education. Most of these NGO centers, which target third country nationals, have offices scattered across Prague 1 to Prague 14, but some also have offices in many cities outside of Prague. Consultations are often provided in Czech as well as Russian, Ukrainian, English, Vietnamese, and Mongolian.
Here are several organizations where foreigners can get help:
ICP: Integrační centrum Praha (Integration Center of Prague)
ICP’s central branch on Žitná began functioning in June of this year, but ICP has several more branches around Prague. ICP provides free Czech language courses, sociocultural courses, and legal and social consultations in many languages, including Czech, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Spanish, and German. Interpreters are also available over the phone if a social worker speaking the client’s language is not present in the office. Pavla Jenková, ICP’s director of methodology, says that the organization starts the integration process with their very own staff, as half of the center’s workers are also foreigners. The majority of ICP’s clients currently come from Ukraine, Russia, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, and Moldova.
CIC: Centrum pro Integraci Cizincu (Center for Integration of Foreigners)
Zuzana Ramajzlova, director at CIC, who provides about 2500 consultations a year, says that individuals from Russia and Ukraine currently represent about one-third of their clients. Clients also tend to come from Mongolia, Vietnam, other former Soviet republics, US, as well as several EU and African countries. Ramajzlova adds that over the last year or two, CIC has registered an increase of immigrants arriving as family members of EU citizens, but also “EU citizens themselves who, in spite of their equal legal status, are in need of counseling. There is also an increase of immigrants on business and student visas as opposed to ‘classical employment’ migrants.” Along with social services and Czech language courses (CZK 50 for 90 minutes), CIC also offers employment consultation and training to foreigners who have already some kind of legal residence permit in the Czech Republic.
SIMI: Sdružení pro integraci a migraci (Association for Integration and Migration)
Although originally established as an NGO to aid refugees from former Yugoslavia, the 20-year-old NGO now provides free legal, social and pyschosocial counseling in Czech, Russian, English, and French, but interpretation may also be available for other languages.
IOM: International Organization for Migration
The Czech chapter of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs the website Doma v České republice, http://www.domavcr.cz/, which supplies detailed information and news (most up-to-date info is only in Czech) about foreigner integration services offered by many other NGOs in Prague and the rest of the country. But IOM Prague also provides its own free legal and social consultation services at its office in Prague 7 in Czech, English, Russian, Vietnamese, and Mongolian.
PPI: Poradna Pro Integraci (Counseling Center for Integration)
The website is only in Czech, but the organization offers a range of free legal and social services, as well as Czech language courses in 3 different levels (CZK 2,550 for 30 lessons of 90 minutes each). Class information is available in Czech, English, Russian and Arabic.
Centra na podporu integrace cizinců (Foreign Nationals Integration Support Center)
Since 2009, this organization has been offering free legal and social counseling services to foreigners in 4 different locations outside of Prague: Ostrava, Pardubice, Plzeň and Zlín.
Resources on Immigration:
The 124-page booklet “Information Publication for Foreigners in Czech Republic” was last published by the Czech Ministry of Interior in January 2011 and contains comprehensive information on basic and necessary information for foreigners in the Czech Republic.
For detailed information on migration policy, projects, organizations, studies and research, the Multicultural Center of Prague website has a good list of sources: http://www.mkc.cz/en/migration.html
MCP’s office at Vodičkova 36 also features a library and can assist in pointing people in the right direction for help with immigration issues (http://www.mkc.cz/en/information-services.html).
What other organizations do you know that help foreigners integrate into Czech society?