Endless queues and overnight stays of refugees in front of the office are over. A miracle, says the volunteer

Endless queues and overnight stays of refugees in front of the office are over. A miracle, says the volunteer
Endless queues and overnight stays of refugees in front of the office are over. A miracle, says the volunteer

Going to the special branch of the labor office in Prague’s Holešovice required up to several hours of time for Ukrainian refugees applying for a humanitarian benefit. Thousands of Ukrainians were handled here by only a few officials. The long queues were monitored by a security agency, whose behavior was complained about by non-profit organizations and Ukrainians themselves. The Labor Office has now responded and the queues have disappeared.

Just last week, there were long queues of Ukrainian refugees in the Prague market in Holešovice who came to the temporary workplace of the Labor Office to request a humanitarian benefit of 5,000 crowns a month. Some spent several days there, sleeping in unfavorable conditions, so that their turn could come. According to non-profit organizations, the situation was appalling and undignified.

But now everything is different. No long queues form here, people reach the officials in no time. “It’s fast today, we used to stand here for seven to eleven hours,” praises Lilja, who came to the market for a dose for the fourth time.

Twenty-year-old Erika from Nikopol in southern Ukraine in the Dnepropetrovsk region is also pleasantly surprised. “Previously, there were queues for humanitarian aid from four in the morning, it was not even possible to go to the toilet. People climbed over the fence,” recounts a young woman at the exit from hall number 29.

The improvement of the situation is also confirmed by the aid coordinator from the Association for Integration and Migration, Magdalena Poláková. “A miracle, isn’t it?” he answers with a smile when asked what happened to the long queues that formed here in the previous days. According to her, the state listened to the comments of non-profit organizations and took measures that calmed the situation in the area. Above all, there has been a significant increase in the number of officials who work on site.

“Three dozen officials and eleven volunteers handle arrivals. Every day, the office’s employees handle hundreds to thousands of incoming clients,” describes Kateřina Beránková, spokeswoman for the Labor Office.

According to non-profit organizations, only two to four officials served here in the previous weeks, who managed to handle a few dozen requests, although hundreds of people were waiting outside. Spokesperson Beránková claims that the Labor Office tried to solve the situation earlier, but in Prague they have been dealing with a long-term shortage of workers and their number has not been increased.

Complaints about hostile security

In front of the two large halls where the branches of the Labor Office operate, even the security agency workers are no longer standing. In the previous days, they managed the queue of benefit applicants. However, the behavior of the security guards was criticized by non-profit organizations and the refugees themselves complained about them.

“I would describe the local security guards, who worked here until recently, as very hostile. They shouted at us. They even smoked next to mothers with children, even though they begged them to stop,” Erika describes.

“The security guards let people in depending on who they liked. I saw with my own eyes how they shouted and then pushed a woman who asked for humanitarian aid for her seventeen-year-old son out of the queue,” describes Nina, who is about sixty years old, who came to collect benefits with her sister Valentine’s Day.

The Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL), also expressed dissatisfaction with the work of the security guards last week. “There are suspicions that there was even humiliation of clients. This is very serious and of course something like this is not permissible in any case,” said the minister.

The security agency BSB, whose personnel work in the area, admits that there have been conflicts. “If, for example, from a thousand people in the queue, there are a hundred people, conflicts will certainly arise in such a situation. Imagine that you have been waiting since the night and still don’t get your turn,” says the company’s CEO Roman Vacek.

According to him, the testimonies given by the refugees about the behavior of the security guards are far-fetched. “The view from the other side is completely different. Of course, given the situation, it doesn’t happen in a way that everyone laughs at each other. Refugees are nervous about waiting in line for a long time, which causes behavior that sometimes has to be addressed with a stronger word or even action. But under no circumstances do our people there take out their anger on anyone,” Vacek refuses.

His people are now only guarding the inside of the hall and at the entrance, and the queue is managed by people from the Labor Office. “The Labor Office rents the premises in the Prague Market Hall in Holešovice. The owner of the building is therefore primarily responsible for security here, who has a contracted security guard, whose selection the Labor Office did not take part in,” explains office spokesperson Beránková.

In Kladno they said that they do not accept refugees from Prague

However, information about the changes in the Prague market did not reach all the refugees. Some are still heading to Kladno due to earlier long queues and allegedly poor access, where even last Friday they were handling requests from people from the capital.

The journey was also completed by a woman in purple sportswear who returned from Kladno with her children an hour and a half ago. “We left around six o’clock. When we arrived in front of the Labor Office at half past seven, the security guard told me that they no longer accept refugees from Prague here. If they had informed us earlier, I would not have wasted time and immediately headed to Holešovice,” complains Olena from the city Boryspil in the Kyiv region.

But he is worried about whether it will be his turn. If the refugee does not have time to apply for the benefit by the end of the month, he loses the right to it for the given month. “Last time, we stood in line in Holešovice from two in the morning until the end of the next day. However, the line didn’t reach us that time. A few people in the line even fainted,” Olena describes.

Even in front of Kladno’s employment office in Dukelských hrdinů street, there were long queues until recently. Now there are only twelve people waiting in front of the yellow and white building, mostly middle-aged women who traveled from Prague to Kladno by bus. They too went outside the metropolis to avoid the queues in Holešovice.

Natalia from Kharkiv goes to the largest city in Central Bohemia every time the Labor Office invites her to submit the necessary documents at any branch. However, like Olena, they told her now that they will not serve her because she is staying in Prague.

When he describes his situation to Aktuálně.cz reporters, after a while he starts to cry. He is afraid that he will not be able to submit the application in time. Losing the benefit for August would be a complication for her, since September she has to pay health insurance and rent. And now he is worried about what he will have to go through in Holešovice.

“If the system worked normally and the hundreds of people standing in the queue checked in quickly, they wouldn’t be sleeping on the cold floor in front of the office. My 17-year-old son stood in the queue at night at the end of July. When I arrived in the morning, I was 41st in the queue and he still looked at me she didn’t get her turn that day,” adds the woman who met Natalia in the Prague market. “Come on, we have nothing to do here,” he says to Natalia, putting his hand on her shoulder. They are going back to Prague, but this time they won’t have to wait in long queues or spend the night in front of the office.

VIDEO: Smart Czechia – Integration of Ukrainian refugees into schools

Video: Daniela Dlabolová

The article is in Czech

Tags: Endless queues overnight stays refugees front office miracle volunteer

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