The town of Litvínov, northern Bohemia, wants to prevent Romanies from simultaneously obtaining social benefits in the Czech Republic and in the UK. The town’s deputy mayor, Martin Klika, said on Monday some Romany families applied for social benefits in Great Britain but regularly return to collect Czech benefits as well. Town officials are planning to contact their colleagues in Britain to find out about how many people might be abusing the welfare system.
An Ostrava-based support group, the Group of Women Harmed by
Sterilization, said on Monday that the last case of a Romany woman
sterilized against her will in the Czech Republic took place in 2007.
Spokeswoman for the group Elena Goralová said that the woman was now 40
years old, lived in northern Moravia and had four children. A social worker
allegedly threatened to take her children away if she refused to undergo
sterilization. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb
informed the government at its Monday session of the allegations.
It is generally assumed that coerced sterilization of Romany women took place in what is now the Czech Republic between 1959 and 2001. Several cases of forced sterilization have since been tried at courts but none of the victims have been compensated.
Czech history features many brave, pioneering women, such as the author Božena Němcová (1820-1862) or the politician Milada Horáková (1901-1950). But Czech society today is still very far from offering equality of opportunity. I met with Eva Kalivodová to discuss the work she does in the field of gender and culture. Eva teaches literature at Charles University, is a scholar of Gender Issues and edits a bi-lingual literary and cultural journal focusing on gender in the Czech context, One Eye Open/Jedním Okem. I first asked Eva if she thought the
In related news, the Romany community in Canada is filing a lawsuit against the Canadian immigration minister, Jason Kenny. The community is reportedly disconcerted by the minister’s claim that many among them are applying for asylum for no good reason, and thus complicating the situation for those truly in need of asylum in the country. According to a lawyer for the Romany community in Canada, the statement was an attempt on Mr Kenny’s part to influence the commission responsible for granting asylum, and has made it more difficult for Romany to have their applications reviewed objectively.
The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb has said that Czech politicians should take part of the blame for the Romany exodus that has led Canada to re-impose visa requirements on Czech nationals. He said that local politicians had played the Romany card for their own political gain and had worsened already strained relations between the majority population and the Romany minority. He cited, among others, Jiří Čunek, former mayor of Vsetin in north Moravia, and Ivana Řapkova mayor of Chomutov, north Bohemia, as cases in point. Both took a hard line with Romany rent defaulters, moving them to inadequate housing facilities on the town suburbs or confiscating their welfare allowances.
We’ve heard about the diplomatic fallout from Canada’s decision to reintroduce visas for Czechs, but what about the effect it’s having on Czech tourists – 30,000 of whom visit the country each year? Well, it’s inconvenient to say the least; hundreds of Czech travellers are now heading for Vienna – the nearest place they can obtain a Canadian visa at short notice.
The Czech Republic has pinned its hopes on the European Union for a forceful retort to Canada’s imposition of visas on Czech citizens. Prague has already officially lodged its demand that Brussels hits back with across the board visa requirements on Canadians. But the success of that demand looks far from certain.
Czech Roma who have sought asylum in Canada are beginning to return home, the daily Dnes reported on Saturday. The newspaper said that some had overestimated their ability to overcome the language barrier, were unhappy with the hand-outs received from the state and that conditions in hostels had deteriorated with many now full. The Czech Roma association Dženo told the paper that several dozen Roma had returned. The reported return could be a factor in persuading Canada not to re-impose visa requirements on Czech travelling to the country. A final decision on whether to re-impose visas – abolished in 2007 – because of a surge in Roma asylum demands is expected early next week.
For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary announced its decision to take down the barbed wire on its border with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the West