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Situation of Czech, Slovak Romanies still wrong – Report

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi


Romanies in Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are still being pushed to the edge of society, according to a study, worked out with support of the EU, the World Bank and billionaire George Soros, which was presented in Sofia today.

The study says that the countries would have to determine and fulfil binding goals to improve the integration of the Romany minority into society. Two years ago, eight Eastern and Central European countries, including the Czech Republic an Slovakia, launched “The Decade of Roma Inclusion” (2005-2015) international programme to improve the situation of Romanies.

The study says that trustworthy data on Romanies are still missing along with the assessment of the achieved goals in Romany integration. Philanthropist Soros called on the governments of the countries participating in the programme to better use resources in order to improve the living conditions of Romanies and create more opportunities for them.

Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovakia, where some 10 million Romanies live in total, according to estimates, pledged to pass new anti-discrimination laws and improve the access to education and health care for Romanies at the summit in Sofia two years ago.

However, in spite of that, thousands of Romanies are still living in very poor conditions in deprived settlements without electricity and running water, being segregated from the majority population. Romanies have worse access to health care and other social services and more difficulties to find jobs, the study says.

© Prague Daily Monitor

Czech Rep/Slovakia, Amnesty says Romanies discriminated against

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi


Romanies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were seriously discriminated against in access to education, health care, housing and work in 2006, the Amnesty International (AI) human rights organisation says in its annual report released today.

It says that Romanies and other endangered groups in the Czech Republic were also subject of police mistreatment and racist attacks. AI bases its information, among others, on a report by the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, according to which Romany children in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were unjustifiably placed in special schools for children with mental troubles.

AI, however, recalls last year’s European Human Rights Court’s verdict rejecting the complaint by 18 young Romanies from the Ostrava region, north Moravia, about their alleged discrimination in education. The court conceded that the complaint was based on certain serious arguments but it concluded that the rules for Czech children’s admission to special schools have no racial subtext.

Referring to U.N. documents, AI also says that almost 75 percent Slovak Romany households depend on support from the state, municipalities and charity organisations. AI also recalls the Czech government’s decision of May that criticises the Czech ombudsman’s recommendation in 2005 that a bill be passed to secure compensation for the women who had been sterilised without giving consent to it.

The AI report also mentions the Czech police attack on official Katerina Jacques, who has become a deputy for the Greens (SZ) in the meantime, when she protested against a May Day demonstration of neo-Nazis in Prague.

© Prague Daily Monitor

Czech Rep, nationalists disturb act marking Czech Romany wartime victims

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi


Five members of the far-right Czech National Party (NS) disturbed a commemorative event marking the victims of the wartime Nazi internment camp for Czech Romanies in Lety today. Nationalists got into a verbal clash with the organisers.

The police interfered and expelled the nationalists from the place. During a mass, the NS members displayed banners recollecting Czech policemen who guarded Romanies in the camp and died of typhoid then. The NS banners included slogans as “300,000 Czech victims of Nazism often without a single memorial,” “German labour facility – German responsibility,” and “Czech policemen – victims of typhoid epidemic in the labour camp.”

The nationalist argued they only wanted to remind of forgotten victims of Nazism. However, participants in the commemorative event, including junior ruling Greens deputy Ondrej Liska, said it was a provocation.

Cenek Ruzicka, chairman of the Committee for Compensation of Romany Holocaust (VPORH), organising today’s event, recalled that 326 prisoners, including 240 children, perished in the Lety camp. Part of them died of typhoid, some of hunger, he added.

The VPORH has been in the long run demanded that the pig farm in Lety, built on the premises of the wartime camp for Czech Romanies, be removed. Romany activists point out that it defames the victims’ memory. The EP also called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for Greens), who took part on today’s act of commemoration in Lety, pushed for the removal of the pig farm as well. “Since it is undignified to have a pig farm at the place where people were dying.

No other reason is needed,” Schwarzenberg told reporters. The Czech state negotiated with the AGPI company, owning the pig farm complex, in the past, most recently in 2005 under the Social Democrats (CSSD)-led government, but in vain. The current centre-right government originally also planned to purchase the farm.

Though the price was not officially releases, speculation emerged that it could amount to hundreds of millions of crowns. Minister in charge of minority agenda Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) said previously that the government would not have finances for the purchase.

PM Mirek Topolanek (ODS) confirmed it a month ago. He said that a new memorial should be build next to the pig farm. However, the VPORH opposes the idea. According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Minister: Czech Agency to lead ‘motivated’ romanies out of ghetto

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi


The emerging Czech Agency for Romany Integration wants to focus on “motivated” Romany families, that is those whose children attend school, parents seek jobs, etc. and take them out of ghettoes, Minister for Ethnic Minorities Dzamila Sthelikova told today’s issue of daily Pravo.

“Don’t believe that all Romanies want to live on social benefits,” she said. The majority society cannot say “let them live there and don’t let us bother about them,” Stehlikova said. She said that shunning the ghetto issue solves nothing, and cited the example of France that “boasted of stately neighbourhoods on the edge of Paris.

The time bomb went off after decades, the minorities have not been integrated. Such situation does not threaten in the Czech Republic, yet it is a sort of warning,” Stehlikova said. She said that street workers and NGOs will deal with Romany families on an individual basis.

They will have to prevent their further social decline. They will see to it that they pay housing rents in time so that they do not run into debt. They will look to that children attend school and check how these people cooperate with the labour offices, Stehlikova said. All this should somehow be linked to the Romanies receiving social benefits, she added. Stehlikova said that integration will be no easy task and that it will take decades.

Stehlikova, who has lived in a strongly-Romany part of Chomutov, north Bohemia, for 18 years, said that she is sure “her” housing estate will not turn into a ghetto. Flowers have grown outside the house and no one dares to tear them, representatives of the majority society are not fleeing from the housing estate, which is good, she said. “Romany minorities inhabitants must not live isolated from the others,” Stehlikova told Pravo.

Stehlikova, a physician by training, said that she thinks that it is never pointless to help people, but the help must be effective. She said that the state policy has been a failure because it worked with one pattern and made it possible to abuse the social system.

Stehlikova said that problems at different places are different and that projects for particular municipalities will tailored through the agency. She said that no exact figures of Romanies living in the Czech Republic exist, but that a qualified estimate puts their total at 300,000 to 350,000. Stehlikova said that many Romanies do not claim their origin.

In Brno, for instance, about 17,000 Romanies live, but statistics speak about only 450 of them. Asked how she wants to motivate Romanies to seek jobs in regions where there are none even for “the whites,” Stehlikova said that retraining must be targeted. She said that even in regions with a high unemployment rate there are still vacancies that are filled by foreigners: Slovaks, Poles and others.

“Don’t let us try to turn Romanies into administrative workers or computer specialists,” Stehlikova said and added that retraining should be directed so that they could do jobs that are available.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep, roma demonstration increases pressure on pm to sack deputy Jiri Cunek

19 Aprile 2007 Commenti chiusi


Just three months after taking office Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is struggling to keep his centre-right coalition government afloat. A fragile majority in the lower house, a rebel in his own party who is threatening to vote against the government’s proposed tax reforms and worst of all a deputy prime minister accused of corruption who has been rocking the boat for weeks.

On top of all this, around two hundred angry Roma demonstrators gathered outside government headquarters on Wednesday to demand the dismissal of the said deputy prime minister – Jiri Cunek – for offensive remarks he made about them in a newspaper interview. Chants of “shame on Cunek” and “down with the racist” filled the air outside the Czech government headquarters on Wednesday, as Roma demonstrators called for his head.

They were angry at Mr Cunek for telling a tabloid newspaper that ordinary Czechs who were not well off and seeking government assistance would have to get a suntan and cause chaos in their families in order convince others that they were poor. “He has no business being in cabinet. Let him go back to the town of Vsetin where he came from. He is not a statesman – he is a village politician.”

Jiri Cunek, the man who first came to prominence by getting tough on Roma rent defaulters in Vsetin came out and attempted to speak with the protesters, claiming that he was not a racist, but his words were drowned out by calls for him to go. Although the protesters chanted the prime minister’s name, only the minister for minorities Dzamila Stehlikova came out to receive their petition.

“The prime minister is aware of what is going on – he is working to resolve the problem,” his spokesman told the assembled crowd.

Vocal as the Roma demonstration outside the government headquarters was, the prime minister faced far greater pressure within. His coalition allies from the Green Party have threatened to walk out of the government if Mr. Cunek remains. The problem is that with 100 seats in the 200 seat lower house the prime minister cannot afford to lose either the Christian Democrats or the Greens if he wants to keep the coalition government in office.

The Christian Democrats have closed ranks around their embattled leader and, faced with the Greens’ ultimatum, Prime Minister Topolanek may be forced to sack Jiri Cunek himself.

© Radio Prague

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Czech, romany activist insists on illegality of eviction

31 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi


The statement by ombusdman Otakar Motejl that the demolition of a house inhabited by Romanies and their removal to a new one was legal is incorrect, Czech Romany activist Jan Rac told CTK today.

A few days ago, Rac sent a comprehensive report on the course of the Romanies’ eviction from the dilapidated house to Motejl. Rac says that the houses in the Vsetin neighbourhood Poschla, to which some families have been removed, are going mildewy and are not consistent with sanitary regulations. Rac had also a detailed study on the eviction of unadapted families in Vsetin drafted.

“I have sent it to the ombudsman. We will certainly change his mind. The eviction from the dilapidated house also related to the families that regularly paid the rent. This amounts to violation of human rights. No one has the right to do this,” Rac told CTK. Rac said that it was not true that the houses to which the Romanies had been moved fulfilled the conditions of the construction law.

According to the paper Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), Motejl said that the relocation was consistent with the construction law. Rac said that the flats were going mildewy. The Vsetin town hall started the demolition of the ramshackle house last October. It ejected the local rent-defaulters, mostly of Romany origin, to other houses, some of them outside the town.

At that time, the town hall was led by current Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek. Thirteen criminal complaints have been lodged against Cunek over the case.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Project boosts Czech self-rules cooperation with Ngos and Romanies

28 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi


The Romany Integration Programme, a four-year international project prepared by the Partners Czechs NGO, has helped establish cooperation between self-rule bodies, NGOs and local Romanies in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, the organisers said at the close of the project today.

In some places the programme also helped improve the coexistence between Romanies and the majority population, the organisers told CTK. In the Czech Republic, it focused on the towns Chomutov, north Bohemia, Bruntal, north Moravia, and Pardubice, east Bohemia.

Seminars and training sessions were also attended by representatives of Romanies, authorities, and NGOs from other areas of the Czech Republic. “It cannot be said that everything has improved everywhere. However, initiative has been launched. People started to solve their problems using their own forces,” Partners Czech director Dana Rabinakova told CTK.

She said some NGOs started field work in Romany ghettos. The programme’s coordinator Tomas Habart said that arbitration councils have been established. People now know how to settle discords, which has markedly lowered tension, said Rabinakova.

The programme also included a campaign against prejudices. A spot in which a tram passenger unjustly accuses a Romany of stealing his wallet has been broadcast by TV and screened in cinemas.

A group of Romanies who wish to work in the media have completed a special training including study stays in television, newspaper and radio offices. The whole programme was covered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which spent more than 60 million crowns on it in the three countries.

The Czech organisers received 13.9 million they used to finance 29 projects implemented by 19 organisations in the three towns. Experts estimate that up to 80,000 in the 10 million Czech Republic live in underprivileged blocks of flats and neighbourhoods of which there are more than 300 in the country.

Most of their inhabitants are Romanies. Adult inhabitants of the “ghettos” are usually unemployed and the families live on social benefits. Children usually end up in special schools for less talented pupils. Activists say the local self-rule bodies are often unable to cope with the problem and try to resettle the Romanies on towns’ outskirts

© Prague Daily Monitor

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U.N. Committee criticises Czech Rep. for approach to Romanies

28 Marzo 2007 Commenti chiusi


The Czech Republic should take measures to prevent the re-location of Romanies from towns and villages and placing Romany children in special schools as well as staging neo-Nazi concerts, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended to Czech authorities after a debate on its annual report on the Czech Republic.

The conclusions have been released on the Internet. The committee also criticised the Czech stance on the cases of forced sterilisation of Romany women and reiterated that the Czech Republic should adopt the anti-discrimination law as soon as possible and establish an institution to monitor its observance and help victims of discrimination.

The committee expressed a serious concern about the prevailing negative approach of Czech society to Romanies and prejudices about them. The committee criticised the relocation of Czech Romanies against their will and their segregation and said that the Czech Republic has not taken any measures to prevent it and that it does not support the construction of social housing either.

The committee calls on the Czech Republic to secure equal access to housing without discrimination. Jiri Cunek, Mayor of Vsetin, north Moravia, and current deputy PM, faces criticism for having relocated Romanies, allegedly rent-defaulters, from a dilapidated house in the town centre to a new house made of tin container-like houses on the town’s outskirts last autumn.

Further Romany families were sent away from Vsetin and resettled elsewhere in Moravia. The U.N. committee also mentioned the “racial segregation” of Romany pupils, citing a high number of them in special schools for problem children.

The committee recommended that the state prepare efficient education programmes for Romany children with respect for their culture background. The committee pointed out that a number of Romany children are taken from their families and end up in institutional care.

The committee also focused on forced sterilisations of Romany women. It appreciated that the Czech ombudsman dealt with the cases, but reproached the Czech authorities for not having recognised responsibility for them and secured compensation for possible victims.

The committee called on the Czech Republic to set up clear rules for patients’ consent with surgery after being sufficiently informed about its course and consequences. The committee pointed out that there is no independent body in the Czech Republic to investigate the police work. While Czech Romanies complain about policemen’s discriminatory treatment, the Interior Minister’s Inspection, investigating crimes committed by police, did not register a single case of policemen’s racially motivated acts last year, the U.N. report adds.

The committee said that the Czech police fail to recruit more Romanies. The committee also pointed to a rising number of neo-Nazi concerts in the Czech Republic. The staging of such concerts and participation in them should be prosecuted and punished.

The state institutions and primarily the police should take active and resolute steps in this respect to prevent similar concerts as well as their promotion in the future, the U.N.committee noted in its report.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep. to spend czk 8 million on anti-discrimination campaign

16 Febbraio 2007 Commenti chiusi


The Czech state will spend CZK 8 million this year as part of its ongoing campaign against discrimination. Campaign coordinator Czeslaw Walek says the programme will fight prejudice against foreigners and promote equal opportunities. In previous years the government annually CZK 4 million a year on its campaign against racism.

This year’s campaign will be part of the programme of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. The Czech programme will have a regional campaign and two national campaigns, Walek said. The project will include seminars, research focused on handicapped people, and discussions in schools.

A ground document for multicultural education is to be drawn up with aims such as increasing tolerance towards Romany children. Six short films on the causes of discrimination are to be shot. The Czech Republic is reportedly to receive about EUR 249,000 from the EU for the campaign.

According to the European Parliament’s information office in the Czech Republic, the EU subsidy may climb to EUR 258,000. Almost 60 Czech projects applied for a subsidy. The Czech Republic submitted eight of them to the European Commission for assessment. Czech EU Commissioner Vladimir Spidla will launch the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All in the Czech Republic in late March or early April.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Rep., failed police offer of Roma integration

16 Febbraio 2007 Commenti chiusi


In the North-western town of Most in the Czech Republic, a recent 11 million crown EU-funded initatiative has failed to incorporate Roma into the police force. The goal behind the program was to train Roma to become uniformed police officers, increase the chance of finding jobs, and produce higher intergration within society for people who have difficutly in the labor market.

In Most seven Roma applied for the positions, however they recently failed to meet the requirements to be re-qulaifed at the educational institute Polis in Pribram in central Bohemia. This low applicant turn-out could be illustrated by the statement of many Roma as quoted in Pravo Daily: ?I wouldn?t do it. Our people would regard me as a renegade and officers would regrard me just as a Gypsy. I wouldn?t be white nor black. I will would rather be unemployed.?

Some of them couldn?t even read or write
Competence for admittance into the program was based on a clean criminal record and education commensurate with the job. Lubos Trojna from the Most municipal police says that ?some of them couldn?t even read or write in the Czech language.?

Although the police did not require a high school graduation for the Roma applicants as they do for the non-Roma, it did not take into consideration that Czech language levels would be lower due to primary school education and particularly due to the socio-linguistic background of Roma.

Mr Trojna?s statement highlights a social problem in the Czech Republic in regard to why this project failed on the education levels. A large number of Roma are sent to special schools, which are designed for cognitively disabled children, at a very young age.

The chance to continue from a special school to a high school is very difficult and extremely rare. Because of this education, many Roma do not have the opportunity to find qualified employment. Consequently, many Roma are excluded from social and economic mobility within Czech society. Resulting from social exclusion from Czech society, some Roma are only in contact with broken Czech of their Romany elders as well as non-schooled forms of colloquial spoken Czech.

The quality of the Czech language of Roma is not only dependent on the level of social involvement and interaction but also on the educational system. This education and linguistic background has not been discussed within the Czech media.

Successful co-operation
However, we must also look at the failure of these tests not as a problem of Roma but as an individual problem. In other towns in the Czech Republic, police forces have successfully integrated Roma into their ranks. Czech Television mentioned that in nearby Usti nad Labem, there are 10 Romany police officers.

The police department in Usti has praised the collaboration with Romany officers for their knowledge of Roma cultural and societal background. Last year, the municiplaity of Brno implemented the project of police assitantships which is a step in higher levels of Roma intergration modelled on the same program in Ostrava.

The assitantships differ from a uniformed officer in that assitansships act more as social fieldworkers who inform Roma to know their legal possibilities. Additionally, they help the police learn more about the Roma culture.

© Dzeno Association

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