Why Indian Students, Researchers Want Czech Borders to Open ASAP

The Czech Republic has left many Indian students confused with their new announcement regarding travel restrictions for those travelling from India.

If you have a visa that was issued before August 2, you will not be able to enter the Czech Republic. Several students, researchers, and even families have been waiting for the Czech Republic to open its doors for Indians again, which have been shut since April this year due to the pandemic.

The most recent announcement that came out on August 2 read, “It is not possible to travel to the Czech Republic on the basis of a short-term or long-stay visa issued before 2 August 2021.”

This has further led to more confusion amongst students. Shubhra Sau (30) is all set to go to the Czech Republic for his PhD. studies. His visa got approved but the new announcement has just led to more angst. “What is the point of this announcement? What will happen to those who have valid student visas?” he wondered.

There are many like Shubra, at least 200 more, who are now left in the lurch. Saunak Sinha Ray, for instance, was awarded an early-stage researchers’ grant by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, a reference programme for doctoral education and postdoctoral training, in March.

He was supposed to begin his PhD research in Prague, CZ. But that remains a distant dream as of now. “Since life has been restored to normalcy in Czechia, physical presence is required in labs, schools, universities, and offices,”  Saunak said.

Saunak had applied for a visa on April 19 and the embassy shut right after, on April 24. He was supposed to leave for Prague, but just like Sau, he has been stuck in India with no clarity on when he would be able to travel.

A notice, published in April on the Czech Embassy website read, “New rules for travelling from India to the Czech Republic has come into effect since April 27, 2021. All nationals of India and foreign nationals who were staying for more than 12 hours during the last 14 days in India are prohibited from entering the territory of the Czech Republic.”

The students are not sitting idle either. They have started a petition urging the Czech Republic to allow them to travel and start their work. “About 200 of us started a petition in July requesting Czech to reopen their embassy in India and start processing visas to allow people to travel,” said Saunak.

The petitioners include students, researchers, employees visiting their families here in India, and people waiting to reunite with their families in the Czech Republic. Preeti (name changed) was on maternity leave when she arrived in India from the Czech Republic in April. “My husband and I are waiting for the embassy to open so we can apply for a visa for my newborn daughter,” she said.

But that’s not all. There are financial constraints linked to all of it as well. “We are still spending a considerable amount on rent for our house in the Czech Republic,” said Preeti. “My husband is a cloud automation engineer and I am an accountant. We don’t know till when our companies will be patient about the current situation. We were living in Czech for quite a few years but even after that, it is sad to know that they [Czech authorities] don’t really care about people like us,” added a worried Preeti.

The issue has been the topic of quite a few debates on social media platforms as well. Hashtags like #TakeustoCzech and #OpenCZEmbInd are doing the rounds on Twitter where people are pouring out their grievances.

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