April 3, 2016 / 12:07 PM / in 2 years

Czechs to return Iraqi Christians who tried to move to Germany, interior minister says

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will send back to Iraq a group of Iraqi Christians who tried to move on to Germany instead of staying in the country, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Sunday.

A group of 25 Iraqis took a bus on Saturday to Germany, where they were stopped immediately after crossing the border, CTK news agency reported. German police then asked the Czechs to take the people back and that was agreed, CTK said.

The Czech Republic agreed in December to accept 153 Christian refugees from Iraq who have fled areas controlled by Islamic State. So far, only 89 have arrived.

Chovanec said that the 25 Iraqis had abused Czech generosity and should go back home soon. It was not immediately clear how Chovanec meant for them to return. Police imposed a deadline of a week for them to leave.

“The seven-day deadline, which the Iraqi Christians got along with their passports, is meant for them to be able to arrange the return home,” Chovanec said on his Twitter account.

“This time cannot be used to break laws or to move to another Schengen country. I asked the Czech police to use all legal means so that these people, who abused the good will of the Czech Republic and her citizens, are returned to Iraq.”

Thirty-seven Christian families are supposed to come to the Czech Republic from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and refugee camps in Lebanon, in four groups from January to April. Minister Chovanec has suspended the relocation program, CTK said.

Prague has refused to accept European Union quotas for distributing migrants. Polls show a majority of Czechs would reject even those fleeing a war zone.

The Czech Republic, a country of 10.5 million, recorded 1,525 asylum applications last year, and had granted protection to 71 people, data from the Ministry of Interior showed.

Several thousand people, mostly Muslims, passed through the Czech territory last year in the mass wave of migration via southeast Europe.

Reporting by Robert Muller, editing by Larry King

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