Local Czech Consul Ivo Losman: ‘Manchester is growing in importance’

“In terms of applications from Czech citizens, the number of applications is still several hundred per month. Personally, I am more qualified to talk about the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – the area covered by our consulate in Manchester. This is because our embassy in London is also doing a lot in this area.

“We still encounter difficulties in explaining to Czech citizens that their children must also apply for settlement status. While the majority of adults have already applied or left the country, the latter category ranges from tens to hundreds, there are still issues with children and vulnerable citizens.

You said there were tens to hundreds of Czechs who left the UK. Doesn’t that seem so important considering there were over 70,000 Czechs who the Foreign Office said could reside in the UK just a few years ago?

“We were a little surprised because according to some estimates there could be around 60,000 Czechs living in the UK. Before Brexit, other estimates were made after our consulate opened that almost 100 000 Czechs could live there.

Czech Consulate in Manchester |  Photo: Czech Consulate General in Manchester

“We now know that by October 76,000 Czechs had already obtained their settlement or pre-settlement status. This means that the actual number of Czechs still living there could be around 80,000 to 90,000.”

Regarding applications for established status, mention should also be made of Czechs residing in the UK who are members of the Roma community. According to reports, some of them have fallen prey to false information disseminated by traffickers encouraging them to return to the Czech Republic, often just to steal their money. How did this situation end up evolving and do we have any numbers on how many people we’re talking about?

“Unfortunately we don’t have any figures, but of course we know that there are places where Roma and other vulnerable Czechs live. It seems to be mainly in the north of England. However, we we get help from a number of local Czech community organizations that help us with this and help citizens fill out the forms.

“It’s really hard to say, but I don’t expect there will be many Czechs left who haven’t applied. [for settled status] at all.”

You mentioned Czech community organizations. In fact, earlier this month, the Czech school in Manchester celebrated 10 years since opening. How popular are these schools and what is their main advantage?

Czech school in Manchester |  Photo: Czech school in Manchester

“There are more than 10 Czech schools in the UK and they help Czechs teach their children their mother tongue, language, geography and history. They are mainly Saturday community schools, where people also organize cultural events, concerts and exhibitions.

“Ultimately, they also helped each other and were very helpful in providing support to vulnerable citizens with their established status as well as in communications with UK institutions.”

Could you just describe how it works in practice?

“Since we are based in Manchester, of course we know what is going on there. However, in cities like Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle, we rely on our fellow Czechs to give us information on local issues. and how we can help and raise these issues with UK institutions.This is mainly how we cooperate together.

Why is Manchester such an important city for the Czech expat community in the UK and, indeed, for the Czech Republic, represented by its Foreign Office itself?

“Manchester is gaining prominence in the UK with the creation of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Consulates from other countries have already opened there before us. We have just followed our friends from Poland, Hungary, Romania and Portugal. If I remember correctly, there are already consulates of 10 EU Member States in Manchester now.

Manchester |  Photo: Daniel Nisbet, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

When I was in Manchester two years ago, there were also high hopes for Czech industry there, as the British government was planning to make major investments in the north of England. I understand that, for example, Škoda Transportation was looking to sell some of its trams in Manchester. Have you managed to make any deals since?

“Unfortunately few offers and certainly no big ones. We tried during our Foreign Secretary’s visit to Manchester just before the start of the pandemic where we had discussions with industry representatives aerospace, some from the north of England and others from the Czech Republic.

“There are a few contacts and a few closed small business opportunities, but not many and of course many on this front have stopped in the time of Covid-19.”

So would you say the coronavirus pandemic was the main reason for that, or why hasn’t there been much success on that front?

“Maybe it was a combination of Covid-19 and Brexit. People couldn’t move so easily between the two countries anymore. Flights between the Czech Republic and Manchester were stopped so it was difficult to get to in Manchester.

On the subject of travel in the time of coronavirus, I wanted to ask if you have any practical experiences or advice you could give to potential travelers to Britain or the Czech Republic? What kind of details should they be sure to look for, other than of course the official Foreign Office website?

Ivo Losman (left) |  Photo: Martin Plocek, Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“In fact, we face the same problem as the travelers themselves. Every day we try to come up with new rules.

“We mainly follow the UK Government website which is good and you can find everything you need there when traveling in Britain. Then there are also differences between the individual nations that make up the UK. When it comes to traveling from Great Britain to the Czech Republic, we recommend that you follow the official website of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I find excellent.

“At the end of the day, we also need to check the French, German and Dutch websites for additional rules, as many people travel by car and need to know these details as well. It’s not easy, but make sure to check until the last moment before you go on a trip.

You have led the Consulate in Manchester since it opened almost three years ago. What do you think have been your three greatest successes as consul so far?

“I would mention the creation of the consulate itself and making sure it functions as it should. This would be the main success. The second would be the reopening of the honorary Czech consulate in Edinburgh, which took place last autumn. Finally, I would also mention having managed to bring the local Czech school in Manchester into the first league of Czech schools.

“By this I mean that Czech students at this school no longer need to take their exams in the Czech Republic. On the contrary, when they visit the Czech school in Manchester, they can take the relevant exams directly on site. »

Do you know if there are cases of students from this school using this option and returning to the Czech Republic?

Reopening of the Honorary Consulate in Edinburgh |  Photo: Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Manchester

“It works, but there won’t be many students. This is because their parents live and work in the UK, so the children largely stay with them.

“The education they receive at the Czech school in Manchester mainly allows them to learn enough to be able to keep in touch with their Czech parents in their home country. However, if they study there, they will have no problem if they choose to return to the Czech Republic.

For my last question, I wanted to ask you how you would characterize Czech-British relations at the moment, in particular, in comparison with other non-EU European states? Have they developed in any way in recent years?

“We are trying to work hard on this. However, it has not been easy during the pandemic, nor during the Brexit negotiations, which are of course taking place in Brussels. I can tell you that the Embassy in London and ourselves are doing our best, with significant help from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. However, I can’t say much more about it. »

Berta D. Wells