Some Romanian Roma remain at a makeshift campsite by a lake on the
outskirts of Prague, despite an agreement reached with local officials on
Tuesday night for them to vacate the site. However, most of the 150 or so
who were camped out there have moved on. The group began gathering in the
Czech capital last Friday when a Roma teenager regarded as a “prince”
was admitted to hospital after nearly drowning while swimming in a Czech
lake. Officials at Vinohradská hospital said he remained in a serious
Sociologists told the Czech News Agency that the Czech Republic did not offer suitable conditions for the nomadic lifestyle. Roma in this country have been settled since 1958, when the Communists barred them from travelling about.
The ministry of the interior is to introduce more police patrols in
“risk” areas following an increase in far-right extremism in the Czech
Republic. Interior Minister Martin Pecina made the announcement after talks
with President Václav Klaus on Wednesday. Over the last year far-right
groups have on a number of occasions marched on districts largely inhabited
by Roma, and the Czech government itself said a rise in extremism was
behind an increase in the number of Czech Roma applying for asylum in
Canada. That led Ottawa to introduce a visa requirement for Czech visitors
two weeks ago.
The interior ministry will also make a second attempt to have the far-right Workers’ Party banned; the last Czech government saw a similar bid rejected in March by the Supreme Administrative Court, which said it had put forward insufficient justification for the banning of the small group.
Two weeks ago Ottawa imposed visa restrictions on Czechs after more than 1,700 Czech Roma, or gypsies, sought refugee status in Canada in the first six months of this year. That was a huge increase on the 650 or so in the whole of 2008, which was already a high figure. So, what led so many Czech Romanies to apply for asylum in Canada?
Police shut down a neo-Nazi event on Saturday, arresting two of the organisers. The men are suspected of promoting movements supporting the suppression of human rights and freedoms. They organised the private event at a pub in Pilsen, attended by some 50 right-wing extremists. Some 60 officers moved in to shut down the event after performers allegedly celebrated the neo-Nazi movement.
It wasn’t a very auspicious start, and it didn’t end very well either – Czech Television, the country’s national broadcaster, has confirmed that it’s withdrawing from the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest due to lack of public interest. The Czech Republic only made its debut in the competition in 2007, but its first three attempts have been disastrous – the most recent gaining the dreaded “nul points”.
Police in Prague have summonsed the heavy metal singer Aleš Brichta to answer questions about the allegedly racist lyrics of the title track on his new album Deratizér (exterminator). The song contains the lines “politicians are making idiots of everybody while gypsies are stealing bicycles in the street, it should be dealt with by an exterminator”. The rock singer denies that the lyrics are racist, saying he employed artistic licence. On Tuesday the far-right Workers’ Party issued a statement condemning what they called the media “humbug” surrounding the song. For his part, Mr Brichta said he had nothing to do with the Workers’ Party; he said their name was reminiscent of the Communist Party, and that such groupings held no attraction for him.
A week after Ottawa brought back visas for Czech citizens over the large numbers of Czech Romanies seeking asylum in Canada, the Czech government put out a report on the state of Romany communities in the Czech Republic for 2008. The report is bleak: Czech-Romany relations are bad, it says, and will be difficult to fix.
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.
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