It has only been five months since Ottawa dropped visa requirements for Czechs, but since then Canada has seen a marked jump in asylum applications by Romanies from the Czech Republic. On Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported that more than 100 claims had been put forward since November and there is now concern a rise in applications could cross a key threshold in 2008. Under such circumstances, Canada might reassess its visa policy and reintroduce travel restrictions for Czechs.
Over 100 Romanies from the Czech Republic have applied for political asylum in Canada since it lifted a visa requirement for Czech visitors at the start of November, the Toronto Star reported. While in the first ten months of 2007 no Czech Romanies lodged asylum requests, 83 did so in November and December, while 45 applied in January. The fresh applications have raised apprehensions that there could be a repeat of a situation in 1996, when the North American state lifted travel restrictions for Czechs and around 4,000 Romanies from the Czech Republic arrived in Canada; most of them gained refugee status.
It is estimated that some ten million Roma live in Europe – the equivalent of the total population of the Czech Republic. But we hear very little about Romany writing. A new anthology published by the Museum of Romany Culture in Brno and called “Čalo vod’i” (Full Soul) is helping to put that right, bringing together four decades of prose written by Romany authors in the Czech Republic. All the stories were written in the Romany language, and this attractive hardback edition with parallel Romany and Czech texts offers rich insights into Romany life
Prague City Hall has banned two marches proposed by right-wing extremists for May 1, 2008, on the grounds the demonstrations would promote hatred and intolerance and the suppression of individual freedom. City hall based its decision on expert analysis and police intelligence. The proposals for the marches were put forward by Martin Matička - a figure allegedly known for attendance at neo-Nazi concerts and for having ties to neo-Nazi groups. The organiser can challenge the decision in court. The two demonstrations banned by City Hall had been planned for Prague’s Žižkov district.
Leaders of the country’s ruling coalition met on Wednesday to discuss upcoming tasks and priorities. The one important issue which was pointedly avoided was the possible return by Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek to the government. Mr Čunek stepped down last year as deputy prime minister and minister for regional affairs over charges of alleged bribe-taking, but was later cleared. His party is now pushing for his reinstatement, but some members of the government – including the Greens – remain opposed. Mr Čunek’s possible return threatens the
The far-right, non-Parliamentary National Party has revealed plans to hold a demonstration near the Centre for Ethnic Minorities in Prague (Dům národnostních menšin) on March 22nd, a day after the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The extremist party registered the demonstration at Prague City Hall as "a protest against positive discrimination”. No more than fifty people are expected to take part. City councillor Jiří Janeček said on Friday that the nearby centre will be closed on the day, to avoid any kind of clash between demonstrators and observers.
Police halted a concert attended by far-right skinheads in Jeneč near Prague on Saturday night. There were around 80 neo-Nazis at the event, which was held in a pub. Police said it was possible some of them had earlier taken part in a demonstration in the town of Plzeň, which was more sparsely attended than had been expected and passed off peacefully.
Saturday’s edition of the daily Právo writes that right-wing groups in the Czech Republic are compiling lists of politicians known for their anti-fascist stands. The papers writes that ultra-right extremists use several websites to collect information on people with anti-fascist stances, among them politicians, experts on extremism, and political commentators. According to Právo, the list includes such people as Prague mayor Pavel Bém, Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka, the head of the Communist Party Vojtěch Filip, and a number of political scientists, journalists and news photographers.
Around 200 ultra-right radicals marched through the west Bohemian city of Pilsen on Saturday afternoon. The scheduled event was delayed due to traffic disruptions caused by strong winds, and attendance was lower than expected. An estimated 500 opponents of the march, mainly anarchists and left-wing activists had gathered in the city to protest against it. The far-right radicals originally planned to hold a demonstration in the city in January but their march was banned by Pilsen mayor Pavel Rödl. However, a court ruled he had overstepped his powers in doing so. The city hall had not banned Saturday’s march but around 1000 police officers were on standby to prevent any clashes between the far-right radicals and the left-wing protestors.
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