The Visegrad Four countries, as neighbours or as linguistically and culturally close countries, have become destinations and new homes for millions of people affected by the war in Ukraine. The experience and assistance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in the face of such a huge movement of people seeking a safe haven is being discussed today by representatives of the four Visegrad ombudsman institutions. Each year, their offices take turns to organise a conference focused on issues related to their work. This year's two-day meeting is hosted by the Czech Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček, who has invited his foreign ombudsman colleagues and experts from their offices to the moravian town of Kroměříž.
In the opening panel, conference participants from each country presented the local social context of the reception of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. They shared relevant data and discussed measures taken at the governmental and regional level or the involvement of other actors such as ministries, regional and local governments and, last but not least, NGOs.
According to the Czech Interior Ministry, the Czech Republic has granted residence permits to almost 450 000 Ukrainians. Thanks to up to date surveys, the Czechs have detailed information on their employment, housing, education and material conditions. For example, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has conducted its own survey, which was used to channel money to support children's groups.
Since the beginning of the war, the Czech Ombudsman has been providing an overview of important links and information in Ukrainian on its website. Ombudsman also draws attention to the dangers such as labour exploitation and human trafficking. He has also prepared several special leaflets, including questions and answers specifically for children. Also a special issue of the Disability Rights Monitoring Bulletin dedicated to supporting Ukrainians with disabilities was published.
In the spring, lawyers from the Czech Ombudsman's Office assisted with the registration of Ukrainians at the Asylum and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Brno as well as at the Regional Assistance Centre. Currently Czech Ombudsman is monitoring pending legislation and drawing attention to the possible controversial consequences of the proposed regulations.
Together with the Czech Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the lawyers of the Czech Ombudsman Office organized a series of three workshops for social workers in September and October. They focused on the necessary legal and practical aspects of the functioning of temporary protection. In particular, they focused on social security, education, health insurance or access to health care.
In the next part of the programme, panelists from ombudsman offices from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will address issues such as the protection of vulnerable groups among newcomers, such as people of different ethnicity, unaccompanied children or people with disabilities. The open meeting allows participants to share examples of good practice as well as discuss pressing issues such as the possible ban on Russian and Belarusian citizens entering the V4 countries. They will also discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine on the general public.