A police raid on the country’s second biggest online grocer, which resulted in the detention of 85 foreign nationals on suspicion of working illegally in the country, has thrown light on a much bigger problem. The record low unemployment rate and the restrictions on the number of Ukrainian workers allowed to enter the labour market has led some firms to employ Ukrainians with work permits for Poland. According to a member of the Association of Employment Agencies the case detected last week is merely the tip of the iceberg and in reality there are
Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, 59, will return to the Czech Republic in March after a year to display his new artifact created exclusively for the National Gallery in Prague. The artist’s biggest sculpture ever reflects his concern about the refugee crisis. Called "Law of the Journey", the 70-metre-long (230-foot-long) inflatable boat with 258 oversize refugee figures will be shown from March 16 through the rest of the year.
Austria’s chancellor Christian Kern wants a major cut in EU subsidies for EU member states that refuse to accept refugees. "If countries continue to avoid solving the migration issue, or drop taxes at the cost of their neighbours, they shouldn't receive billions from Brussels in the future," Mr Kern told the German daily Die Welt. He made the statement just day before an EU leaders summit in Brussels, which is also going to deal with the migrant crisis. The measure would hit especially the V4 countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
March 8 is International Women’s Day and women’s organisations in the Czech Republic are using the occasion to highlight pay inequality and other issues. One event taking place on Wednesday is a gathering aligned with A Day Without a Woman, an international campaign urging women to go on strike for the day to call attention to the gender pay gap. I spoke to Petra Jelinková from Ženy, one of several young feminist groups taking part here in Prague.
The Czech Republic doesn’t belong among progressive and cultivated EU states when it comes to ensuring equality of men and women, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Wednesday at a conference “22 % towards Equality”. As regards equal salaries, the Czech Republic is low down the EU ladder, Mr Zaorálek said, adding that he was ashamed of the situation. According to Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová, women make on average 22 percent less than men, which is around 6,700 crown less in monthly salaries.
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: