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PRAGUE: Once slammed for refusing migrants from the Middle East and Africa, Central European countries are now welcoming unprecedented numbers of refugees from war-torn Ukraine. During the 2015 migrant wave that brought over a million refugees into Europe, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia angered the European Union by refusing to take any in and rejecting the EU’s system of migrant redistribution.

But since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the ex-communist states known as the Visegrad-four group, which were under Moscow’s command until 1989, have spared no effort in helping those fleeing the war.

Analysts named Ukraine’s cultural, linguistic and geographic proximity among the factors behind the change in approach, alongside the fact that most refugees were women with children.

“The situation is completely different now,” said sociologist Martin Buchtik, head of the Prague-based STEM polling agency.

Ukraine “is a society which is culturally very close to us, while people coming from the Middle East are very remote and we have no experience with them, unlike western countries,” he told AFP.

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