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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

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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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, house of Romanies moved to Jeseniky is uninhabitable

29 Gennaio 2007 Commenti chiusi


The house in Stara Cervena Voda in the Jeseniky Mountains to which Romanies from Vsetin, both north Moravia, were moved last year is inhabitable, experts say, which is at variance with what the Vsetin town hall claimed, Sumpersky a jesenicky denik daily writes today.

The Roma Vidnava NGO and the Olomouc Region who help the Romanies now want to find a replacement accommodation for them, or repair the dilapidated house at the cost of Vsetin, the paper writes. The Vsetin town hall, however, claims that it has expert opinions according to which the house is habitable.

“There are only problems with water which we will settle with a sponsorship gift,” the daily quotes Lubomir Gajdusek, deputy mayor of Vsetin, as saying. Renata Koettnerova, regional ethnic minorities coordinator, said, on the contrary, that the house has a leaking roof, the beams are damaged by wet rot, electric mains are unsuitable and the chimney is damaged. She added that the last two defects are dangerous to life.

The Vsetin town hall wants the Romanies to pay half a million crowns for the house while experts have put its value at 200,000 crowns. Gajdusek said the Romanies own the property and must look to it that it serves its purpose. He said, however, that the town hall might raise the loan granted to the family. Romany experts, however, say this will not solve the problem.

The Vsetin town hall moved the Romanies to the Jeseniky Mountains in mid-October within settlement of the problem with rent-defaulters living in a dilapidated hose in Vsetin. Besides Stara Cervena Voda, Romanies were also moved to Vidnava and Vlcice in the region.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Romanies face discrimination at work, school

3 Gennaio 2007 Commenti chiusi


Romanies are discriminated against in the Czech Republic at work, but also at school and in housing, according to the 2006 Raxen report issued by the People in Need organisation today.

According to the report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), there is both latent and open discrimination in the Czech Republic and it is most often Romanies who are its victims. But the report says that racism is not dramatic in the country.

The Raxen report states that Romanies are discriminated against on the labour market mainly not because of their ethnicity, but because employers in general believe that they do not work well and do not attend work regularly. The report says that Romanies have been moved to the outskirts of municipalities.

It writes that up to 80,000 Romanies live in ghettos. Experts estimate the unemployment rate among Romanies at 70 percent, while overall unemployment in the Czech Republic is over 7 percent. In some localities, 90-100 percent of Romanies are unemployed. Romanies are often unemployed for several years and a number of families live merely on welfare benefits.

According to the study, many Romany children consider normal that their parents do not work or study and live on welfare. According to a recent analysis, employment is a condition for Romanies´ integration into the society. For this, higher education is needed.

The Raxen report says that Romany children continue to be “segregated” in education as they are sometimes automatically placed in special elementary schools for slower pupils, and do not achieve higher education as a result. The Czech Republic has not yet approved an anti-discrimination law even though the EU requires it from its members as legislators have not agreed on its formulation.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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EU criticises Czech Rep, Slovakia for segregating Romanies

1 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi


The Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) has criticised the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary for segregating Romanies, primarily in the access to education, the centre says in its annual report released these days.

The report points out that the EU member states have not succeeded in preventing racially motivated incidents and discrimination against minorities in housing, at schools and on the labour market. Anastasia Crickley from the EUMC said that apart from Muslims in Europe and the Jewish community, European Romanies became a target of violent attacks and other forms of racism.

According to a recent analysis on the social deprivation of Romanies, there are over 300 Romany houses and neighbourhoods for the poor where up to 80,000 people live in the 10-million Czech Republic. Most adult inhabitants of such “ghettos” are unemployed and their children often end up in special schools for those with learning disorders and behavioural problems. The EUMC report also says that the education system in the Czech Republic supports the unequal access of Romanies to higher education.

Some Romany organisations have criticised the decision-making of Czech courts in the cases of attacks on Romanies for a long time. A couple of months ago, Romany NGOs protested against the court verdict imposing a suspected sentence on a soldier for having beaten up an elderly Romany. Recently they highlighted the case of a 14-year-old Romany boy who was beaten up and tortured by two policemen who were also given a suspended sentence.

Some NGOs confirm that most Slovaks have a negative stance on Romanies. “Despite the projects of government and civic associations, fundamental improvements [of Romanies´ situation] have not been achieved yet,” Maria Candrakova from the League Against Racism told CTK. Police statistics monitored a couple of racially motivated attacks against Romanies in Slovakia this year. The inhabitants of Korytarky, central Slovakia, for instance, protested against a home for Romany children being built in their village.

On the other hand, some say that Romanies themselves are indifferent about their own fate. “Some Romanies are able to work normally, they have also built nice houses, but a number of them are still passively waiting for state social benefits only,” Anna Bombarova, Mayor of Kecerovce, east Slovakia, told CTK earlier.

The EUMC also says that European countries do not sufficiently monitor the impact of their social and economic policy on minorities. Only two countries, Finland and Britain, register the situation of minorities thoroughly and have provided the EUMC with all necessary data. The EUMC, which was established in 1997 as one of the EU agencies, participates in the preparation of initiatives and measures to suppress racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech Republic, locals launch petition in support of mayor who evicted romanies

11 Novembre 2006 Commenti chiusi


The residents of Vsetin in the Zlinsky region have launched a petition in support of their mayor and senator Jiri Cunek (the Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) who recently decided to evict some local Romany rent-defaulters from their homes and give them replacement housing outside the town centre, Vsetin town hall spokeswoman Eva Stejskalova told CTK today.

The petition asks politicians to start dealing with the Romany issue in a constructive and efficient way. It has also called on the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting to inspect the fairness of the published reports, Stejskalova said. The town hall constructed container-like flats outside the town, to which it moved some 230 Romanies from a dilapidated house from the town centre. Cunek was sharply criticised for the measure by human rights activists. The town hall also moved tens of Romany rent-defaulters outside the town.

The Romanies moved outside the Zlinsky region have filed a lawsuit against Cunek. Organisers of the petition say that both the private and public media describe the Romany issue in Vsetin unfairly, painting the picture of Cunek as the worst “rascal and racist.” “If anything, it was him who was able to resolve the long-lasting unbearable situation in Vsetin’s centre without throwing the rent-defaulters out in the streets, while his opponents, who are criticising him, are shouting cheap slogans about xenophobia and racism from their comfortable offices and desks,” the petition said.

Organiser Jan Oth said it was evident that the people did not know the meaning of the word. “In the opposite case, they would keep silent. If there is any racism, it is only committed against the ‘whites.’ The state robs us at any step through taxes so that it could provide livelihood to parasites,” Oth said. If anyone disagrees with the steps, pseudo-protectors of human rights and “blabbermouths” who know nothing about the problem foment big opposition.

They have never been to Vsetin, they have never heard its residents who have been exposed for decades to the co-existence with the unadapted people, Oth said. Not Cunek’s conduct, but lack of professionalism, buck-passing and ignorance of facts and views of the public are scandalous, the petition said. Two petitions are being held in Vsetin to the same effect. The first was launched by the staff of the clinic that is situated close to the house with Romany rent-defaulters in question, who were most afflicted by the latters’ disorderly conduct. The petition has been signed not only by the health staff, but also by patients.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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