A former deputy mayor of the Czech town of Hodonín in southern Moravia summoned police over the weekend after having spotted a Nigerian couple on the street, iDnes.cz is reporting.
Roman Sedlačík a member of the right-wing Order of the Nation party (see more on them here) noticed the man and woman while he was walking through the city.
“Of course I went after them and asked […] what they were doing, where they were from, and whether they were Muslims. His wife was horrified. I do not know why, but at the same time, I do not understand people who ignore them and slowly get used to [it],” Sedlačík posted on Facebook (the post has since been deleted).
He claims to have acted for fear of his family. “The [man] said he came from Germany and was born in Nigeria. He spoke in broken English. It seemed strange to me,” Hodonín said.
The politician then summoned the city police to check the foreigners’ identification.
Hodonín Municipal Police Director Jindřich Vašíček confirmed that the officers were contacted during the weekend and went to the scene; he said his patrol cannot, however, legitimize people just because they are foreigners.
“However, we may verify the identity of people who violate a law,” Vašíček said. He added that someone who is simply walking around the city is in no such violation.
The current deputy mayor of Hodonín, Ladislav Ambrozek (KDU-ČSL), called Sedlačík’s behavior racist.
“Meeting someone who looks and speaks differently than you is no reason for calling the police. Every visitor here is not a potential enemy,” Ambrozek told the publication.
Zuzana Candigliota, a lawyer for the League of Human Rights, also weighed in on the Hodonín representative’s actions.
“The police have laws under what conditions they can check identity. For example, when a person walking along the street looks similar to someone they are looking for. In this case, it was obviously just a foreigner.”
When Can You Be Asked for ID?
Candigliota faced a similar situation when traveling by train from Břeclav to Brno.
Police officers entered her car and demanded identification papers. They justified their request by referring to “ordinary police control”. Candigliota refused. The Constitutional Court is dealing with the dispute.
We asked Tomáš Jungwirth, policy officer, Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic, whether or not a foreigner is required to hand over ID to the police upon demand:
“It has been a matter of heated discussion in the past years. The related court practice has been fairly inconsistent. Generally, there should be either a suspected violation of law or another form of legitimate interest.”
He says that in the case of foreigners, however, the police would argue that the legitimate interest is to check up on the legality of the given person’s residence.
For more on what to do when confronted by the Czech police see our article Dos & Don’ts: Police.