For Panorama this week we go back to school, visiting a class of 12- and 13-year-olds at the grammar school in the old town of Havlíčkův Brod, about a hundred kilometres south-east of Prague. We are here to find out more about a pioneering teaching project that has been made possible thanks to the enlightened attitude of the local town hall, which gave financial support.
Ottawa could reinstate a visa requirement for Czech visitors due to the
high number of Czech Romanies applying for asylum in Canada, the Czech
foreign ministry said on Wednesday. The Czech foreign minister, Jan
said Canada’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney, had told him a few
ago that Canada was considering measures in reaction to the number of
asylum seekers, including reintroduction of a visa requirement. The Czech
newspaper Lidové noviny reported that Ottawa would reimpose visas from
next Tuesday, though Canada’s embassy in Prague would not confirm
such a decision had been taken.
If the change is introduced, the Czech government could respond by making Canadian diplomats get visas to enter the Czech Republic, the Czech News Agency reported. A blanket visa requirement for all Canadians would contravene a European Union directive.
While 861 Czech Romanies applied for asylum in Canada in the whole of 2008, over 1000 did so in the first three months of this year. Thirty-four of those who applied between January and April were granted asylum. The asylum seekers say they have been the subject of discrimination in the Czech Republic, a view supported by human rights agencies.
In 1997 Canada brought back a visa requirement for Czechs because of the number of Czech Romany asylum applicants. It dropped the condition in 2007.
The Czech media is awash with claims that Canada is on the verge of reintroducing visas for Czech citizens, in reaction to the large numbers of Roma from the Czech Republic seeking asylum there. The speculation led the Czech foreign minister Jan Kohout to call a special press conference on Wednesday at which he confirmed that Canada had informed Prague it intended to take measures, but said no decision had been taken yet on visas.
The American centre in Prague hosted a roundtable discussion on Wednesday on the growing threat of extremism, at a time when far-right groups are holding regular rallies in Czech towns and several Romany families have been attacked by neo-Nazis. The discussion was attended by government ministers, Romani rights activists and also groups that monitor far-right extremism. Klára Kalibová is from the monitoring group Tolerance.
A survey of Czech mothers with young children has found that many of them would like to combine childcare with work but cannot. Most are thwarted by a lack of childcare facilities and lack of interest from their former employers in finding ways how they can keep employed. Many just simply face outright discrimination when seeking work.
Around 350 people took part in a “Queer Pride” march in the centre of Tábor on Saturday. Police including riot units were out in force, as members of the far-right Workers’ Party also gathered in the central Bohemian town. A spokesperson said police had kept the extremists, who numbered around 30, away from the gay parade. The Czech Republic’s first big gay pride march, in Brno last June, was cut short when far-right extremists attacked participants.
The Czech government has taken another step to meet its pledge of clamping down on ever bolder manifestations of extremism in the country. The latest move is a guide for town and city halls how to recognise extremist meetings and either refuse them permission to take place from the outset or ban them once they are underway. The ministry of interior hopes the initiative will help clear Czech streets of extremists.
A rise in political extremism in the Czech Republic has been at the centre of media attention in recent weeks, and the past weekend was no exception. In the wake of the biggest ever police operation against the country’s ultra-right groups, far-right radicals took to the streets in a number of towns and cities to protest against the arrest of ten neo-Nazis.
Far-right radicals took to the streets in a number of Czech towns over the
weekend to protest against this week’s crack-down on ultra-right groups.
In the town of Most, north of Prague, police dispersed a gathering of
far-right extremists that was not approved by the town hall, detaining 14
people in the process, among them the deputy leader of the Workers Party
Petr Kotab. In Zlín, south Moravia, an extremist march provoked a series
of skirmishes with anarchists. There too police detained several people.
Smaller gatherings also took place in the towns of Havlíčkův Brod,
Mladá Boleslav and Jablonec nad Nisou. Expecting trouble police were out
in force to secure law and order.
On Tuesday, special police units conducted raids on far-right radicals around the country, in what has been described as the biggest anti-extremist operation ever undertaken. Ten people, all members of the National Resistance group, were detained and later charged with promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. If found guilty, they face up to eight years in prison.
Speaking at the commemorative ceremony in Lidice, President Vaclav Klaus expressed concern over growing extremism in the Czech Republic and said the authorities should take a much tougher line against its representatives. He said the country’s legislation afforded the means to do so but that some ministers and mayors were unnecessarily cautious in employing those means. Last week the police conducted the biggest ever anti-extremist operation in the country, arresting and charging ten far-right radicals in the process. The interior ministry has promised to provide towns and municipalities with a manual on how to fight various forms of extremism more effectively.
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