The government’s council for human rights has criticized the lack of a support network for socially challenged families, citing this as the main reason why the Czech Republic has proved unable to reduce the high number of children who are institutionalized each year. In 2016 the country had 6,500 children in institutional care. Half of them had behavioural problems, learning disabilities or speech defects that indicated long-term neglect. Many of them improved significantly after being put in foster families. The council says many children could be spared of the trauma of being taken away from their parents if their parents received timely and professional help in dealing with their problems.
In its annual human rights report for 2016 the US State Department says the Czech Republic needs to tackle discrimination against Romanies, stigmatization of HIV sufferers and corruption. It also points to the problem of overcrowded prisons and the long period of detention of migrants and asylum seekers. The report criticizes the lack of Romany representation in Parliament and public life, but concedes that elections in the Czech Republic are free and fair.
Final preparations are underway for the One World human rights documentary film festival, which starts in Prague on Monday. This year’s edition, the 19th, will turn the spotlight on the lives of migrants who have settled in Europe – and deliver all kinds of captivating stories from around the globe. Ahead of the opening, festival director Hana Kulhánková filled me in on this year’s curtain-raising film.
The police have proposed the charging of four people over the spraying of neo-Nazi symbols on Prague cafés and shops aligned with the Hate Free project. The four are accused of criminal damage and expressing sympathy for a group aimed at suppressing rights and freedoms. Seven businesses that had signed up as “Hate Free zones” were targeted in the attacks in April last year. The Hate Free Culture campaign combatting intolerance and racism is run by the government’s Agency for Social Inclusion.
Last year saw a two-fold increase in applications for Czech citizenship according to newly released data from the interior ministry. In 2016, almost 4,000 applicants proved successful in this quest, which requires passing a language test, having a clean criminal record, and also proof of not being a social burden. Martin Rozumek is the head of the Organisation for Aid to Refugees. He explained that legislation in effect since 2014 was a major factor behind the increase:
At the start of this year historian Matěj Spurný came in for a great deal of online abuse – and even death threats – after an interview he gave a magazine headlined This country is not just for Czechs. Spurný’s work is focused on issues of nationalism and identity and he is a co-founder of Antikomplex, a group advocating for a more critical look at the post-war expulsion of the country’s German minority. When the Charles University academic visited our studios I was curious to know, given his specialisation, about his own family background.
The head of the ultra-right party Adama Bartoš has been charged with Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred, Czech Radio reported on Friday. According to the police, Bartoš intentionally incited hatred of Jews as well as immigrants in his speeches and published texts. The case will be heard by a Prague district court. If found guilty, Bartoš would face up to three years in prison.
The Prague Integration Centre in Žitná street, just a few minutes’ walk from Wenceslas Square, is housed in an inconspicuous-looking building, but inside the place is busy as a beehive. Foreign residents from different parts of the world come here for advice on how to rent a flat, find a job or deal with residence permit problems.
Czech Radio has reported on widespread abuse of the Czech visa system in Ukraine. Its team of investigative reporters said the issuing of visas for Ukrainian workers had turned into a booming business for agents and middlemen. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it is aware of the problem and is working to tackle it. In view of record low unemployment in the Czech Republic, the government has been under pressure from Czech firms to double the number of visa requests processed monthly in order to bring more workers into the country faster. According to Czech Radio, Ukrainian workers have no choice but to use the services of middlemen if they want to get on the electronic lists of visa applicants which is filled for months in advance.
Reporters from public service broadcaster Czech Radio have mapped a booming business for Ukraine agents and middlemen by ensuring clients get visas for the Czech Republic or wider Schengen area. And to help ensure demand for their services, they have rigged the visa appointments system so that it is blocked to those who try to get visas by themselves.