Czech President Miloš Zeman has called Romani refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine “economic migrants”, local advocacy group Romea reported.
Talking on CNN Prima News, Zeman praised “the support of the Czech nation” towards the more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who came to the Czech Republic since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Zeman also mentioned that Muslim refugees have been healthy young men, while those fleeing Ukraine are children and women.
“The third difference is that, after all, the Ukrainians fall into our cultural circle, not just linguistically, but also because of their Christian roots and the like, while Muslim refugees live in a very different, Islamic culture,” he added.
The Czech President said he expects that the war will end and many Ukrainians will return to their homeland. “Because they are not economic migrants, because they are really refugees from war who, under normal conditions, want to live in Ukraine,” the Czech President explained his prediction.
“I would make one little exception here in terms of Romani Ukrainians, I am not sure whether they aren’t more economic migrants. However, they are a very minor exception, about two thousand people,” Zeman said on Terezie Tománková’s program on CNN Prima News.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of mid-April, more than five million people have left Ukraine since Russia invaded on 24 February. Ninety percent of refugees from Ukraine are children and women and most have gone to Poland.
Ukraine was home to an estimated 400,000 Roma people before the beginning of Moscow’s invasion. Many of them have long been undocumented, further complicating their administrative claims for international protection and refugee status.