1) Penalties for overstaying visas in Czechoslovakia 2) Refugee determination procedure in the UK 3) Statistics for acceptance of Czechoslovak refugees in the UK [CSK2991]

As you have our information request from 14 July 1989, we assume you have information on travel restrictions before July 1989 as well as the penalties associated with illegal travel under Article 109. We add the following two paragraphs as a short review.

The Czechoslovak government has been steadily relaxing its travel restrictions over the past two years. Since January 1988, people have been able to bypass the Central Bank and acquire hard currency from friends or relatives abroad, or even from personal funds, provided they are from a legal source. These funds, which had to total at least US$10 for each day of a proposed visit abroad, had to be deposited at a Czechoslovak bank in the name of the potential traveller. These new regulations have led to a significant increase in the number of trips abroad: it is estimated that 400,000 Czechoslovaks visited West Germany in 1988. [Information for the balance of this section comes from the following sources: U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 1988, p. 1026; "Czechoslovakia Will Loosen Rules"; R.W. Apple, Jr., "Prague Loosens Restrictions on Travel", The New York Times, 15 November 1989; Andrew Alexander, "Prague to Ease Travel Limits", The Ottawa Citizen, 15 November 1989; "Prague permettra à ses citoyens de voyager en Occident", Le Devoir, 15 November 1989; "Government Proposes More Liberal Travel Law", pp. 25-28.]

In July 1989, a further relaxation of travel regulations took place when the authorities removed the condition for individual travel to the West, which required an invitation from a relative. Under the new regulations, the invitation can come from anyone. It must be witnessed and assure the government that the host assumes responsibility for day-to-day expenses and any medical expenses which his guest might incur.

More liberalization took place on 21 September 1989 when the government approved a new travel law which will probably go into effect early in 1990. The principal item, which will permit Czechoslovak citizens to leave the country without obtaining exit visas, was announced on 14 November, shortly after East Germany lifted its restrictions.

The proposed law will relax a number of restrictions. Czechoslovaks will be able to travel directly to Bulgaria without having to go through Yugoslavia, and to Yugoslavia through Austria. Citizens wishing to travel abroad will require only a valid passport, a visa from the host country if required, and a "statistical card" which ensures that the bearer has not had access to state secrets. This document will eventually be computerized. The government will still be able to regulate travel to a great extent through its control over the issuance of passports. Although the son of dissident Peter Uhl was permitted to travel abroad in the past year, and Vaclav Havel has been granted permission to travel to Sweden, these incidents cannot be taken as precedents and dissidents will not necessarily benefit from the relaxed laws until all citizens are granted the right to have a passport.

Another proposed amendment would have all of the hard currency earned by tourism deposited into a central fund which would be used to modernize tourist facilities within the country and facilitate travel by citizens outside.

By far the most radical of the proposed amendments is that which would decriminalize the act of "illegally leaving the republic", an offence which is punishable by imprisonment. One can "illegally leave the republic" through failing to obtain an exit visa (escaping), through staying permanently in the west without permission from government authorities, or overstaying the period specified in the exit visa. Under the proposed amendment, the offence would become an administrative offence, punishable by fines, "public reprimand" or "confiscation of property". The proposed maximum fine of 20,000 koruny is about half the average annual salary. Administrative offences would remain under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It should be noted that the changes since September 1989 which are mentioned above, are proposals of a government which has recently resigned. On 28 November, Vaclav Maly, the spokesman for Czechoslovakia's chief opposition group, Civic Forum, reportedly announced that "the government" had abolished exist visas as a prerequisite for leaving the country. [ Chris Cobb, "Reformers aim to oust Czechoslovak president," The Ottawa Citizen, 29 November 1989.] Yesterday, according Associated Press, 20 border crossings to Austria were opened and about 500 reportedly entered Austria at one of these crossing points alone. Also, on 30 November, the Czechoslovak government reportedly "announced that all obstacles to travel to the West would be removed." [ "Czechoslovaks flood into Austria," The Ottawa Citizen, 5 December 1989, p. A6.]

2) Regarding this topic please find enclosed a Memorandum from the Dutch Refugee Council, recently presented at a conference on "Human Rights Without Frontiers" in Strasbourg.

3) No information is available to the IRBDC this time regarding this subject.