New aliens act in Czech Republic criticised as opening space for arbitrary treatment by authorities
A new law on the residence of aliens, which went into effect in the Czech Republic on January 1, 2000, together with amendments to several other laws relevant to foreigners’ residence in the Czech Republic, has come under heavy criticism by human rights activists who fear the law allows police arbitrary powers. Activists were particularly critical of Article 5 of the law, which specifies a list of documents police can demand of an alien applying for residence, but are not required to demand. Activists fear that police will require documents only of people they do not like, and that dark-skinned foreigners — including Roma — will be primarily affected. Many have also criticised Article 65 of the new law, which states that foreign spouses of Czech citizens have the right to permanent residence, but spouses of foreigners with permanent residence do not have the right to permanent residence. Since many benefits and basic social services are linked to permanent residence, many families of foreigners may not have access to social benefit or the right to work. This concerns among others many Roma who were denied Czech citizenship in 1993 and have not acquired it since.