PRAGUE – The Czech government said Monday it had decided for the first time to accept 37 Christian families fleeing the Islamic State group in Iraq.
“They are members of the Christian minority who found themselves in a very difficult situation following the Islamic State aggression in Iraq and asked the Czech Republic for help,” said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.
He said that the refugees, numbering 153 in total, were based in Iraqi Kurdistan and Lebanon and should arrive in four groups between January and April.
“In our country they should get international protection, a chance to integrate and start a new life in safety,” said Sobotka.
They will be the first refugees being taken in by Prague aside from the several dozen who have followed formal asylum procedures.
Last week, a group of 149 Assyrian Christians from Iraq arrived in neighboring Slovakia after being offered aid by the government there.
Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, former communist Eastern European countries that joined the European Union in 2004, have rejected the EU’s system of quotas for distributing refugees amid the current migrant wave.
The two countries that formed the Czechoslovak federation until 1993 have accepted the Christian groups under voluntary programs unrelated to the EU quotas.
Within the current migrant crisis, few asylum seekers have chosen to stay in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with a majority heading to wealthier Germany and other Western EU states.