Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) was established in 1991 in Prague as a non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian organization. Since 2014, OPU has been an association under the Civil Code. OPU has been helping refugees and foreigners in the Czech Republic for more than 26 years.
OPU’s main activities include providing free legal and social counselling to asylum seekers, refugees and other foreigners in the Czech Republic, organizing training programmes for both professionals and the general public, and other activities aimed at promoting integration of foreigners. OPU is weekly present with its offer of free legal and social aid activities in all refugee camps in the Czech Republic, all detention centers, at the airport as well as in the integration centers for recognised refugees. To the OPU’s goals belongs also the fight against xenophobia and racial and ethnic intolerance.
Since OPU was established in the autumn of 1991, its workers have dealt with many cases of minor foreign nationals without their lawful representative (unaccompanied minors) in the territory of the Czech Republic (migrants as well as international protection seekers) – further UAMs. In regards to necessity of particular treatment of UAMs, a special UAMs team consisting of a lawyer and a social worker was created in 2003.
OPU also assisted the creation of the Facility for children of foreign nationals (“ZDC”), established by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of Czech Republic in 2004, where all UAMs residing in the Czech Republic are now being placed. The OPU team cooperates closely with the facility – OPU workers come to the facility once a week and they provide free-of-charge social and legal counselling and deal with accommodation search for its clients, among others. At the moment, OPU is the only non-governmental organisation that systematically dedicates to this specific group of clients, responding to the current system of UAMs care and its drawbacks and attempts to fill in empty space in the system of care for unaccompanied minors with its activities.
OPU UAMs team offers to its clients the following services:
- Provides free-of-charge social and legal counselling to unaccompanied minors
- Offers assistance with accommodation situation in Czech Republic
- Organises free-time activities in the Facility for children of foreign nationals, thanks to volunteers of OPU
- Tries to secure financial means for language, practical or sports courses, textbooks or tools thanks to donations and projects
- Realizes workshops preparing UAMs for an individual life after they’ve reached 18
- Arranges psychological assistance, according to clients’ needs
UAMs team has a 24/7 helpline for UAMs where clients are encouraged to phone in case they need assistance with their problem. If needed, OPU arranges interpreter service. Workers of OPU remain in contact with former unaccompanied minors (FUAMs) after they have left the Facility for children of foreign nationals and continue to provide them social and legal counselling, especially social assistance with job search, accommodation search or communication with authorities. OPU implemented a number of transnational EU projects in the field of children and unaccompanied minors focusing a lot on development of foster care system for young refugees in the Czech Republic.
Half Way House
The social service Half Way House has been managed by the Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) since March 1, 2008. This social service was founded to fill a gap in the social services provided for unaccompanied minors who leave the Residential Centre for Foreign Children. Although these young foreigners (18 – 26 years old) are relatively socially integrated (living status, study at a high school and communicative level of the Czech language) after their leave from the Residential Centre, they lack the social background, knowledge and experience which are so important for a self-reliant life. It is crucial to provide them with some help and assistance at the very beginning of their self-reliant lives. For this reason we have organized a safe background and space to reach this goal. In a one year period of time the clients adopt the knowledge and skills needed to complete their social integration.
Martin Rozumek – OPU Director
OPU – www.opu.cz
Tel. 00420 730158779
Fax: 00420 233371258