Wednesday, February 27, 2013




Czech men who father a child with a foreign woman from a non-EU country may be required to undergo DNA testing as of next year. If they have not married the mother of their daughter or son and want their child to have Czech citizenship, they may first have to prove their paternity. A draft law on citizenship under discussion in the lower house has proposed the measure.

Representatives of organizations assisting foreigners are criticizing the legislation as discriminatory and pointless, but the authors of the law say it will prevent false declarations of fatherhood being made in order to get residency. "The regulation separates mothers for no reason into those who are EU citizens and those who are citizens of other countries and discriminates against the children of unmarried parents. Those children would automatically lose their right to citizenship and therefore their right to something as fundamental as full health care during their first weeks of life," said Marie Heřmanová of the Migration Program of the NGO People in Need (Člověk v tísni).

According to lawyers at the Counseling Center for Citizenship/Civic and Human Rights (Poradna pro občanství, občanská a lidská práva) the legislation violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Czech Republic has undertaken to uphold. Currently the children of foreign-born women do receive citizenship should a Czech male declare himself to be their father.

According to the Czech Interior Ministry, this procedure is being abused, which is why the ministry has proposed tightening the rules. Allegedly such declarations are made in order for children and their mothers to get residency in the Czech Republic.

"The Czech Interior Ministry is unequivocally prioritizing its monitoring [of foreigners] over the interests of children," believes attorney Pavel Čižinský of the Counseling Center. Activists note that the law does not address what would happen to a child whose father cannot provide a DNA test for financial reasons (or because he is deceased) and note that since testing can cost anywhere between CZK 6 000 and CZK 20 000, some families may not be able to afford it.

The legal position of children prior to the confirmation of their biological father's identity is also not clear. Parents would have to pay for vaccinations, medical checkups and treatment on their own until the child was awarded citizenship.

The Czech ombudsman fundamentally disagrees with the regulation. Pavel Pořízek of the ombudsman's office said previously that foreign-born women living legally in the Czech Republic have no reason to fake their child's paternity. Speaking at a seminar on the law, he called the bill absurd. Allegedly, however, there have been dozens if not hundreds of such false declarations of paternity.

According to the ombudsman's office, current legislation should remain in effect and if the Czech Interior Ministry suspects a fraudulent declaration of paternity, it should reopen that child's citizenship proceedings. The Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner also favors preserving the current law.

Activists see another conflict in the fact that while Czech men fathering children with non-EU women would have to undergo paternity tests, the children of fathers and mothers who are both citizens of the former Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic would still be able to get Czech citizenship simply by declaring the child as theirs, even though the children or grandchildren of former emigrants, for example, need not have any ties to the Czech Republic in order to qualify for citizenship and don't even have to speak the Czech language. "The tendency to understand citizenship as a matter of 'blood', i.e., as ethnic, is unequivocally present in this law, as is the tendency to privilege citizenship applicants with ethnic roots over those who actually are at home here and are interested in living and working here," Heřmanová said.

Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

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