Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic
0.6-0.8% of the Czech population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Prague, Cheb, Varnsdorf|
|Related ethnic groups|
Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic, including residents and citizens, form the largest immigrant community in the country (and 3rd largest ethnic minority at all, after Slovaks and Romanies), numbering more than 83,000 people according to 2011 census.
According to the 2001 census, there were 17,462 ethnic Vietnamese in the Czech Republic. The Vietnamese population has grown very rapidly since then, with the Czech Statistics Office estimating that there were 61,012 Vietnamese residing in the Czech Republic in October 2009. Nguyen, the most common Vietnamese surname, is now the 9th most common surname in the entire country.
Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic also lead nationwide drug-related crime statistics.
Vietnamese immigrants began settling in the Czech Republic during the Communist period, when they were invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovak government. Migration was encouraged by the Vietnamese authorities, with the intention that the migrants would return with skills and training.
Following the collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia, many Vietnamese decided to remain in the country rather than return home. This first generation of immigrants has traditionally made a living as vendors in street markets or stalls. In recent years, however, a significant number have moved towards establishing their own businesses and integrating more broadly into society, similar to the experience of other overseas Vietnamese in Western countries. However, the small business sector remains the key economic domain of first-generation Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic.
Vietnamese immigration continued in the 1990s and 2000s (decade), with Vietnam being one of the countries targeted by the Czech Republic's skilled migration programme.
The majority of Vietnamese (over 10,000 people as of 2011) live in Prague, and 2% of the population of Karlovy Vary Region have Vietnamese citizenship, with the border town of Cheb being a main centre for Vietnamese people. Also the northernmost part of Bohemia – around the town Varnsdorf – has a significant Vietnamese population.
In the Czech Republic, national minorities which number over 20,000 are afforded a number of rights, including government funding for the protection of their language and culture. In recent years, the Vietnamese community has sought recognition as a national minority, as its numbers exceed 20,000. In 2004, however, the Government Council for National Minorities ruled that Vietnamese do not constitute a "national minority", with this term applying only to indigenous minorities who have inhabited the Czech Republic for a long period of time.
In Prague, however, which has the largest community of Vietnamese, there is a Vietnamese representative on the city's National Minority Council, and Vietnamese are included in Prague's policy for national minorities.
Whereas first-generation Vietnamese immigrants are perceived mainly as street- and market vendors, second-generation Vietnamese in the Czech Republic have a reputation for high levels of educational attainment.
In some regions, such as Northern Bohemia, the Vietnamese people are leading the statistics of crimes committed by foreigners, being second only to Romanies from Slovakia. When it comes to drugs related crimes, Vietnamese are leading nationwide criminal statistics.
Vietnamese criminal gangs in the Czech Republic usually have a three-level structure. The kingpin is usually a well-established man, who came to the country as a student in 1980s. The second level consists of his close friends from studies or family members, while the third level comprises "soldiers", who are often in the country illegally and are fully dependent on the criminal organization.
Criminal activities of Vietnamese gangs in the country consist mainly of tax evasion, infringement of intellectual property rights, smuggling and frauds, but include also racketeering, robbery and murders.
While traditionally specializing in counterfeit goods, during the 2000s Vietnamese people dominated the production and sale of illegal drugs, especially marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, in many regions of the Czech Republic. These drugs are often made for export to Germany, Poland, Austria and Italy, as the domestic market is limited due to the possibility of Czechs to grow cannabis for their own purposes legally. In 2011 alone, the police arrested almost two hundred criminals of Vietnamese origin on drug-related charges. Unlike their local competition, mostly of Balkan or Romani origin, the Vietnamese drug lords cooperate with each other, which makes their criminal activities that much harder to uncover. Also, when dealing with wire tapping, the police has to rely on translators, some of whom were uncovered as giving information to the Vietnamese drug lords. Vietnamese gangs use a variety of devices to protect the drug production facilities, including improvised explosive devices, venetian blinds connected to electricity or trapdoors with bayonets. During one of the busts, the police even found a slave gardener who was sealed within the marijuana production facility, forced to care for 5,800 cannabis plants.
Dramatic rise in metamphetamine use in the neighboring Bavaria and Sachsen led in 2013 to German pressure for change of Czech drug laws, under which for example up two grams of metamphetamine or up to fifteen grams of mariujana are not a criminal offense. According to the German authorities, the high legal threshold allows easy purchase for German drug users. However, Czech addiction experts refused lowering of the threshold, saying, that this would merely lead to criminalization of addicts and would not solve the issue. Instead, Czech authorities intensified international cooperation and investigation.
In April 2013, the Czech Republic and Vietnam announced a new bilateral treaty, under which policemen from Vietnam were to join Czech teams fighting Vietnamese drug mafia, while convicted Vietnamese were to be repatriated to the home country and serve their sentences there.
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- (Czech) Klub Hanoi - association promoting Vietnamese-Czech relations
- A glimpse at Prague's secretive Vietnamese community
- 2004 article on Prague's Vietnamese community