Laid off? Go home, says Czech republic

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February 9, 2009 at 1:29 PM EST

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic will offer a free plane ticket and €500 ($795) to foreign workers who voluntarily agree to return home after losing their jobs in the economic downturn, the government said on Monday.

The sweeteners are among measures to cope with security risks stemming from rising unemployment among foreign workers in the EU member country, Interior Minister Ivan Langer said.

In the past years, the fast-growing Czech economy, led by the car industry, lured cheap labour mainly from Ukraine, Slovakia, Vietnam, Mongolia and Moldova.

Mr. Langer said many unemployed foreigners lacked cash to pay for a ticket home, as they had been saving to pay excessive fees or bribes -- up to $14,500 -- to agencies that secured them jobs in the Czech Republic.

“Many of these people could unfortunately end up with a difficult financial problem and struggle for a living. Then there is a threat that they will end up in a grey zone and become a part of criminal networks,