Sharp increases in the numbers of unauthorised border crossings from Slovakia into neighboring Czechia have led to tensions between the two countries. Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger planned to meet with his Czech counterpart in Prague on 10 November to discuss Czechia’s introduction of border controls, which Slovakia claims may undermine Schengen freedom of movement obligations. According to reports, some 12,000 people have already been detained by Czechia this year–12 times as many as in 2021.
Since the summer, countries along the western Balkan migration route have reported a significant increase in the number of irregular border crossings. According to reports, the majority of migrants and refugees taking this route are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Turkey, with Frontex announcing that it has detected more than 105,000 crossings from the western Balkans into the EU so far this year. In Czechia, the Interior Ministry has referred to this as “transit migration,” asserting that the majority of migrants and refugees entering the country are aiming to reach Germany. Ukrainians entering the country, however, are not included in irregular migration data.
Criticism of Czechia’s detention policies are longstanding, including its many and broad legal grounds for detaining non-citizens (for more, see our 2018 Country Report). The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, for instance, recently expressed concerns that children are frequently detained in the country, and that the country fails to properly consider “alternatives to detention” before imposing detention measures.
The Czech government’s decision to temporarily reintroduce border controls–which came into effect on 29 September–was initially set to last for ten days, and involved the deployment of several hundred army, police, and customs officers to border points. Controls have since been extended and according to the Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, they are set to be prolonged beyond 28 October.
The reintroduction of border controls is regulated by the Schengen Border Code, which holds that it is to be applied as a last resort and only permitted in exceptional situations. In recent years, controls have been temporarily reintroduced as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to curb irregular migration. In order for Czechia to extend the current controls however, consent must be obtained at EU level–and authorities are thus preparing for negotiations.
Czechia’s decision to impose controls has also set off a wave of similar measures in neighbouring EU states. Announcing that “we have to react before the smugglers react,”Austria has reintroduced checks at its 91 km border with Slovakia, and the EU has also announced that it will deploy Frontex officers to North Macedonia. In Slovakia, interceptions of undocumented migrants have risen. According to the country’s Ministry of the interior, several dozen smugglers were arrested and 1,615 undocumented migrants were intercepted between 29 September and 17 October.
- Hungary Today, “Czechia Forced to React to the Situation on the Czech-Slovak Border,” 10 November 2022, https://hungarytoday.hu/czechia-forced-to-react-to-the-situation-on-the-czech-slovak-border/
- Schengenvisa.news, “Czechia to Extend Border Controls at Its Border With Slovakia,” 6 October 2022, https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/czechia-to-extend-border-controls-at-its-border-with-slovakia/
- InfoMigrants, “Border checks by Czech Republic and Austria, over 100 migrants intercepted,” 29 September 2022, http://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/43683/border-checks-by-czech-republic-and-austria-over-100-migrants-intercepted
- N. Van Hardenberg, “Einreise unerwünscht,” 20 October 2022, https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/westbalkan-fluchtroute-nancy-faeser-1.5678657
- A. Gabriel and T. Prior, “Neuer Migrationsdruck über die Slowakei,” 28 September 2022, https://www.diepresse.com/6195847/neuer-migrationsdruck-ueber-die-slowakei
- Reuters, “Czech Government Extends Slovak Border Checks by 20 Days,” 5 October 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/czech-government-extends-slovak-border-checks-by-20-days-2022-10-05/
- K. Grieshaber, “Austria to Launch Checks at Slovak Border to Stop Migrants,” 28 September 2022, https://apnews.com/article/health-migration-covid-czech-republic-austria-1a8c206f804f0cd3a237b98eb4ab91b7
- K. Testorides D. Gatapoulis, “ EU Expanding Border Guard Presence Along Busy Balkan Route,” ABC News, 26 October 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/eu-expanding-border-guard-presence-busy-balkan-route-92144289
- UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, “Concluding Observations on the Third Periodic Report of Czechia,” 28 March 2022, https://uhri.ohchr.org/en/document/8e7b781d-018d-4e99-91ae-9ba5f48ab6fd
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in the Czech Republic,” December 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/czech-republic#country-report