Czech president backs predecessor's anti-immigration petition

Czech Republic President Milos Zeman (2nd R) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Lintao Zhang)
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Prague (AFP) - Czech President Milos Zeman on Sunday expressed support for an anti-immigration petition launched by his euro-sceptic predecessor Vaclav Klaus.

Speaking during a visit to China, Zeman said he agreed with the former president's ideas on rejecting quotas for asylum seekers and increasing border security as Europe struggles with its biggest movement of people since World War II.

"This initiative has the same ideas I have always expressed," Zeman said at a press conference in Peking, referring to Klaus's petition which was unveiled on Saturday.

In the petition, Klaus, who served as president from 2003-2013, called immigration a "fundamental threat to the stability of Europe".

Last month, Zeman lashed out after dozens of migrants tried to flee a detention centre, saying: "No-one invited you here...you must respect our rules."

According to a survey published in July by the Centre for Analysis and Empirical Studies, over 70 percent of Czechs are reluctant to welcome migrants from Africa and the Middle East into their country.

An EU member state since 2004, the Czech Republic has agreed to host 1,500 refugees by 2017.

During the first six months of the year, Czech police intercepted 3,018 illegal migrants, up almost 50 percent on the same period in 2014, official figures show.

Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec on Sunday said that only 60 Syrian asylum requests had been processed, which he said showed that the Czech Republic was more of a gateway for refugees to western Europe rather than a final destination.

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