A proposal by Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek to place members of the country’s Roma community into three categories, with the lowest being forced to live in supervised centres, has been described by Romany groups as a ploy ahead of regional and Senate elections. Mr Čunek won a Senate seat – and the leadership of the Christian Democrats – two years ago, after forcing Romany rent defaulters out of the centre of a town where he was mayor. With more than a month to go until the elections, Čunek is already playing the Romany card, Zdeněk Ryšavý of the Romea civic association said on Tuesday. The proposal has little chance of being considered by Jiří Čunek’s cabinet colleagues.
Jíří Čunek, the country’s Deputy PM and Minister for Regional Development has been in trouble several times for his actions and statements regarding Czech Roma. This week, the Christian Democrat leader announced a plan to solve the so-called Roma problem within 10 years. The solution, to segregate Roma into various categories according to their willingness to be “civilized” has raised some eyebrows.
The Minister for Minorities and Human Rights Džamila Stehlíková has said that Czech Roma seeking asylum in Canada should not plead persecution, as the percentage of crime which is racially motivated in this country is less than one percent. The minorities’ minister added that Romanies feeling threatened should seek help at home, from government bodies, NGOs and state institutions rather than seeking asylum abroad. Mrs Stehlíková made the remarks in response to the news that 466 Czechs have sought asylum in Canada since the North-American state raised visa restrictions last November. It is thought that the majority of these asylum seekers are Roma. Canada has said that it is considering reintroducing visa restrictions for Czechs if the number of asylum seekers crosses the 500 mark. Mrs Stehlíková caused anger amongst Romany-rights groups last month when she said that a small minority of Roma were making things hard for all Czechs traveling to Canada by seeking asylum from Ottawa.
Known neo-Nazis continue to serve in elite units within the Czech army, despite the authorities having detailed information about their activities – this according to a report in the daily Mladá fronta Dnes. The paper identified several neo-Nazis within the Czech army back in November, providing evidence of attendance at neo-Nazi gatherings and demonstrations and also photographs of the men holding flags adorned with the swastika. This led to assurances by Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová that the members would be dismissed from the army – Nazi groups are explicitly outlawed in the Czech Republic. According to a new report by the paper, the identified men still remain in the army despite Defence Ministry assurances. The revelations have led to calls from civic groups and also several politicians for the matter to be resolved without further delay.
The Canadian Embassy in Prague is busy making plans for a possible visit by the country’s governor general. Michaëlle Jean is due to visit the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia in early November, although officials stress the trip has yet to be confirmed. One stop on her proposed Czech itinerary is the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, incidentally at a time when increasing numbers of Romanies are once again applying for asylum in Canada. Radio Prague spoke to Canadian Ambassador Michael Calcott:
The Vietnamese make up one of the largest ethnic minorities in this country, many of them running clothes markets and more recently grocery stores in Czech towns and cities. According to the statistics there are just over 55,000 Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic, and by all accounts it’s a very harmonious relationship – Vietnamese are regarded by Czechs as hard-working, law-abiding and possessing a high regard for education, even if it’s a community that keeps very much to itself.
The government council on Romany affairs is planning to discuss in two weeks’ time the controversial issue of the high number of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in Canada, the minister for human rights and minorities, Džamila Stehlíková, told reporters on Saturday. The prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, said last week economic factors not human rights were behind an increase in Czech asylum applications in Canada. Romany leader Ladislav Bilý criticised the prime minister’s comments, as well as statements made by Minister Stehlíková and Interior Minister Ivan Langer. Nearly 500 Czech Romanies have applied for asylum in Canada since it dropped visa requirements for Czechs in November; Ottawa had introduced the restriction in response to a large influx of Czech Romanies in the late 1990s.
The Czech police organised crime unit has revealed in its annual report a rise in neo-Nazi group activities in the Czech Republic, with members of the extreme right organising a an increasing number of demonstrations and concerts or rallies. Last year, the police unit noted in its report, far-right groups held 26 different events. Specialists say that extremists have tried to raise their profile to try and broaden their influence and strengthen their support base. Experts have also noted that the far-right in the Czech Republic has also been trying to prepare the ground for eventual entry onto the political scene.
Around 300 neo-Nazis gathered in the eastern city of Hradec Králové on Saturday, holding a brief demonstration in one of the city squares before dispersing. They had hoped to attend what had been dubbed a “political cultural” event in the Hradec’s outdoor cinema, but in the end the city council banned it.
Nearly 300 neo-Nazi supporters gathered in the East Bohemian town of Hradec Králové on Saturday. The gathering, which has been announced as Freedom Day, was scheduled to coincide with the death of one of Hitler’s closest aides and associates Rudolf Hesse. The town hall on Friday cancelled a contract for the lease of the open-air cinema where the gathering was originally to take place. However, the neo-Nazi sympathisers gathered in the centre despite not having received a permit. Authorities said the event could only be stopped in case the demonstrators broke the law.
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