Half of Czechs oppose taking in war refugees: survey

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Half of Czechs are against accepting any refugees from war zones, a survey showed on Wednesday, underlining the deep opposition in the Czech Republic and central Europe to policies opening the door to growing numbers of asylum seekers.

File photo of demonstrators marching during an anti-immigrants rally in Prague, Czech Republic, September 12, 2015.

Central European states have stressed the need to secure the EU’s outer borders to stem the flow into Europe this year of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The government has opposed European Union plans to distribute asylum seekers around the EU, and most of the Czech political class, including openly anti-immigration President Milos Zeman, has shared this position.

This stance has bruised the country’s relations with Germany but drawn little domestic criticism.

Anti-immigration sentiment has been high despite the fact that the country does not lie on any major migration path and the few thousand migrants who have been detained this year were nearly all headed for neighboring Germany.

A survey by the Czech Public Opinion Research Center (CVVM) found that 50 percent of respondents were against taking in refugees from conflict zones, while 40 percent supported taking them in but only until they can return home.

Only 4 percent of the 994 people surveyed supported taking in war zone refugees permanently.

The survey was conducted in September, when debate over the EU’s response to its migrant crisis was dividing the bloc. A majority of EU states outvoted the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania to impose a plan to share out 120,000 refugees among all members.

Slovakia has vowed to take legal action against the decision while the Czechs have accepted the outcome but said they would never support any permanent re-distribution scheme.

Opinion surveys in Poland and Slovakia have also found the vast majority of people either oppose taking in refugees at all or favor accepting them only until they can return home.

The Czech Republic, like its neighbors in the region, is a mostly homogenous society with only tiny minorities from Muslim countries.

The CVVM survey showed 69 percent of Czechs were against taking in refugees from the Middle East or North Africa and 49 percent against taking in refugees from war-hit Ukraine.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Hugh Lawson