Responses to the Economic Crisis among Immigrants in the Czech Republic: Impeding and Inhibiting Factors for Staying
This paper considers the impact of the most recent global economic crisis on immigration in theCzechRepublic. Developments during this economically troubled period suggest that the “immigration-inexperienced”CzechRepublic, which has attracted significant numbers of people seeking economic opportunities in the past decade for the first time, has repeated historical mistakes made by Western European countries during the 1970s oil crisis. Initially, promising economic growth at the beginning of the decade allowed the Czech government to ignore issues of immigration, including controlling inflow and immigrants’ integration into the majority of society. The sudden reality of jobs disappearing in late 2008, irrespective of the fact that many employers in the economic sectors are dependent on foreign guest workers, caught the country unprepared. In an effort to level the unemployment rate and dampen societal unrest, theCzechRepublicoffered financial assistance to immigrants who opted to depart voluntarily, but officials overestimated the willingness of foreign labourers to return home, even if gainful work vanished.This paper is based on research conducted among participants of the government-assisted Voluntary Return Programme and a follow-up ethnographic study in the Vietnamese, Ukrainian and Mongolian communities in Prague. It can be shown that most immigrants decided to stay despite extreme declines in their living conditions. While the motivations of immigrants to leave or stay are multifaceted, this paper offers an alternative to the “pull-push” model that takes into consideration economic as well as cultural factors, which both impede and inhibit migrants from returning “home”.