Iraqi woman denied entry into the Czech Republic

08-04-2003

The foreigners' police in the Czech Republic is being strongly criticised for denying an Iraqi woman entry into the country - the first time an Iraqi citizen has not been allowed into the Czech Republic since the start of the war in Iraq. The case of Salia J.Khalaf, who arrived in Prague last Thursday with her two year old son, has been described by the Czech Ministry of Foreign affairs as a disgrace for the country.

Salia J. Khalaf flew into Prague's Ruzyne airport last Thursday expecting to meet her sister, who has lived in the Czech Republic for sixteen years. The Iraqi citizen was accompanied by her two year old son who suffers from cerebral palsy, and her sister was hoping to organise medical care for him in the Czech Republic.

Although she had a valid visa issued by the Czech embassy in Baghdad, the foreigners' police at the airport denied Ms Khalaf entry on the grounds that she could threaten "national security" - without explaining more precisely the type of threat she posed. Because of the war in Iraq, Ms Khalaf and her son were not able to return to Baghdad, and were flown to Damascus. After her arrival there, Ms Khalaf - who was two months pregnant at the time of her arrival in Prague - suffered a miscarriage.

The case of Salia J. Khalaf has again brought into the spotlight the performance of the Czech foreigners' police, which controls the entry and exit of foreigners into the Czech Republic. Petr Smolik is a lawyer for the Helsinki Committee in the Czech Republic, and he believes that the foreigners' police needed to give a more precise reason for denying Ms Khalaf entry:

"There are two things which we must separate. One thing is the broad term of 'national security': this is a general term which may be used by the government as a political issue. The second thing is a different one: that when the entry of a foreigner is denied, the police must concretely and in detail state in what way a simple person can endanger national security. That is, how dangerous she is, whether she is a political representative of a party, or a group, which might endanger national security. This is not a general political statement, but a statement with legal effects on the position of a foreigner."

The Czech foreigners' police has been criticised in the past by human rights organisations, lawyers, everyday citizens and the Czech government's council for foreigners, which is part of the office of the government representative for human rights. But Mr Smolik says that, while there is criticism of the foreigners' police, the Czech authorities do not react appropriately to it:

"In this regard our question could be: what is the response of the Ministry of the Interior to this criticism, this broad criticism? Some cases are only criticised in the newspapers, and we are a little bit scared that there is no reaction to this criticism. So, there's only criticism, the situation is criticised, but there's no reaction to it. For example, the foreigners' police's way of working is very secret, it's not transparent."

08-04-2003